As pet sitters and animal lovers, many interact with dogs daily. It’s all fun and games, but when meeting a dog for the first time, you must take certain precautions to avoid getting bit. Some dogs may be reactive and can bite if agitated. If you have experience with dogs, you’re likely to be able to tell if a dog is sketchy or needs to be approached carefully. If you don’t know what a dog is showing, there are ways to keep yourself safe and out of danger.
Our dog walkers have a lot of experience dealing with dogs with strange temperaments. They feel compelled to spread awareness and keep people and dogs safe in an uncertain situation. Here are six tips to follow when meeting a new dog.
Do not approach the dog.
Let the dog come to you. Even if the owner says it’s okay, they can’t speak for the dog. If the dog wants to approach you, they will, which will be obvious. Don’t take it to heart if the dog doesn’t want to interact with you. Once you have permission, don’t make eye contact with the dog, as dogs interpret that as a threat or challenge. Don’t ever reach out to touch the dog – allow the dog to sniff and feel comfortable with you first. If the dog pulls away, remain calm and slowly back away. Remember, dogs feed off your energy, so try to be as calm and friendly as possible. Sometimes, it’ll take multiple times of exposure before the dog becomes comfortable with you.
Don’t be too physical or in their face.
Don’t try to be overly physical; never put your face in their face, especially if you’re meeting them for the first time. Refrain from overly petting them if they are showing signs of uncertainty. Dogs aren’t humans and don’t understand your actions. No one likes to be completely and utterly overwhelmed by someone the first time meeting them.
The way you touch and pet a dog matters.
Keep in mind how you pet a dog. Believe it or not, there is a right way to pet a dog. Dogs hate pets on the top of the head. They do, however, like being pet underneath the chin, on their chests, and on the sides of their body. Don’t pet the dog too hard, either. It’s essential to be gentle and careful with your petting.
Don’t take from the dog’s territory.
Some dogs can be very territorial and protective over things or people. Don’t try to take a dog’s “belongings” away. You are not entitled to take the dog’s things away from them—treats, sticks, balls, toys, whatever. That’s a job for their owner. If you do, you could be setting yourself up for a disaster. Be sure to check with the owner if the dog is okay with others touching their things.
ALWAYS ask the owner first.
The dog is the owner’s responsibility. This is a huge pet peeve of most dog owners. It should be a no-brainer to ask the owner for permission to interact with their dog and avoid getting bit. All you have to do is ask the owner whether or not the dog is friendly and whether you can interact with it. Don’t take it personally if the answer is no; this can be for your protection and safety.
Watch the dog’s posture.
A dog’s posture speaks volumes about their emotions. If a dog has a wrinkled nose, curled lips, or a stiff-legged stance with raised hair along the back– that’s a clear sign the dog is uncomfortable. If a dog is relaxed, they’ll have their head high with their tongue out. It’s pretty easy to tell what kind of mood the dog is in based on their posture and overall behaviour; you just need to know what to look for.
Hopefully, these six tips to follow when meeting a new dog will help you the next time a strange or new dog comes across your path. Until then –stay safe!
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