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There is a big difference in the methods of communication that dogs use and that humans use. And since not all dogs are trained socially, things can go wrong when you meet a dog for the first time or try to pet him the wrong way. This is why one must know how to safely approach a strange dog to avoid an unpleasant incident. For safety’s sake, you must learn the dog’s ways. For instance, if you approach a dog wrong, he might bark or growl at (or worse, bite or attack) you, telling you to “back off!” because he thinks you are an enemy.
The right methods of greeting a dog shall be discussed in this article. First of all, if the dog has an owner, you should ask permission first before “talking” to the dog itself. You may not know what kind of issues that dog may have if the owner didn’t tell you yet.
And probably the most important thing to remember is, if the dog has no owner around, stay away from it, because you don’t know its background and whether it was socialized or not, and whether it is aggressive or not. Here are some basic tips on standard dog petting etiquette:
How To Safely Approach A Strange Dog
- Do not approach the dog face to face. This is because dogs do not generally like the idea of being “watched” or stared at, and normally like to approach others in curves, whether human, fellow dog, or other animals. Sadly, leashes prompt the dogs to walk in a straight manner, something that they are not really used to, according to a Norwegian writer Turid Rugass, who wrote “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals”. The best way to approach a dog is to keep your side towards the dog so it will not feel threatened and uncomfortable.
- Do not move your hand or fist toward him or hover over him.The dog may see this as an attack.This is thoroughly explained in the following video by Tracie Hotchner, author of “The Dog Bible”:
- Do not make threatening or fast moves. Instead, act calmly towards the dog. One important thing is to not look at him directly in the eyes, as this could imply to him that you are being a threat to him. Dogs are usually very territorial, and do not really want their personal space invaded. Move slowly, and do not lean forward or have you head close to the dog. Also, avoid shouting or making noises that could possible startle the dog.
- Let the dog approach you first. This is to let the dog know that you are not a threat. The dog may sniff at the back of your hand and may have different reactions: he can sniff and then walk away, think that you are a threat and bark or growl, or continue sniffing and act like he is asking for attention and love. And don’t talk “baby talk” to the dog. As described in a DogBreedInfo.com article:
Stay calm and as tempting as it is, avoid speaking in an excited, high-pitched, whiny tone. You may then calmly pet the dog. Pet the dog gently and avoid getting the dog excited as it only makes it harder for the owners to carry on after you walk away.
- Pet the dog the correct way. The general etiquette is to not pet the dog on the top of the head or over the head. Instead, pet from the bottom of his head, under the chin, or even the chest area and the sides.
Every dog will bite (even if it was properly trained) if it feels threatened, so you should be very careful when petting and approaching a strange dog to prevent any unwanted incidents and injuries.
So perhaps the best advice about how to safely approach a strange dog is simply: don’t!
Have you had any experience with a strange dog, either good or bad? If so, please share it with all our readers below.