26 Nov

How to Greet Dogs Safely

I love seeing dogs, and always want to say hello and offer them a sniff of my hand. Children especially get very excited and often want to go straight in and hug that dog, any dog, all dogs. But this can be dangerous and any dog may get easily spooked by a stranger kissing, hugging or pulling on them.

Animal behaviourist and veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin, says, “The truth is that the majority of bites are actually due to fear, and they occur because humans fail to recognise the signs of fear in dogs. To make matters worse, people often assume that dogs should be friendly with all people all the time and consequently they greet and interact with unfamiliar dogs in a way that is rude or scary.”

Learning how to greet a dog while practicing bite prevention can be fairly simple by learning to read a dog’s body language and control your own actions.

Learn to Read Dog Body Language

Just like us humans, dogs can also sometimes feel tired and grumpy so never approach a dog that is:

  • yawning
  • pulling back his head/ears
  • has a tensed body
  • staring intently at you
  • has a stiff tail
  • is showing the whites of his eyes
  • backing away

Dogs that are happy and want to be touched will lean in toward you. Some dogs may need space and time, and then they may eventually let you pet them.

Control Your Actions

You need to earn the trust of a dog so make sure that you:

  • Don’t thrust your hands out at a dog, crouch over him, or reach for his head. Fearful dogs who have possibly experienced traumatic upbringings are intimidated by these actions. Get down to the dogs level, let him approach you and then gently tickle or scratch under his chin.
  • Stand to the dog’s side, don’t be confrontational and stand in front of him.
  • Don’t stare directly into a dog’s eyes, this makes them very uncomfortable.
  • Don’t make loud, unexpected noises.
  • Never pull or tug at a dog’s ears or tail.

Preventing dog bites can be as simple as thinking about how the dog feels, observing his body language, and letting him approach you first. Read our page on Bite prevention for more information.

Remember to always ask the dog’s owner if you can pet a dog, they will know their dog best and will either welcome it or caution you not to.

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