Meeting a Dog the Right Way

Written on by Steve Del Savio

You're probably asking yourself, what's the big deal with meeting a new dog right?  Well in reality it's a huge deal from a dog's perspective and unfortunately the majority of people are misinformed when it comes to meeting a dog they don't know.  I couldn't even tell you how many times I've been walking a dog where a stranger walks up and says, "is he friendly?" They then proceeds to stick their arm straight towards the dogs face with their hand palm down.  The humans reasoning, "I want to allow the dog to smell me and show them I'm friendly."  The intention is good but the reality is that this approach can be very threatening and disrespectful from the dog's perspective.

Humans tend to be under the impression that they need to put their hand right in a dog's intimate space for the dog to smell them.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  A dog’s sense of smell is about 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than a human’s (depending on the breed).  They are already evaluating not only the scent of an approaching person from many feet away but also their energy.  Also remember that just because a dog is ready to smell, doesn’t mean they are ready to be pet. 

That being said, I'm often asked, "well then what's the best way to meet a dog?"  The answer is pretty simple, show them respect.  That means don't look, touch or talk to the dog and be calm.  Instead of approaching the dog, allow the dog to approach you.  By doing this, you are giving the dog an opportunity to learn your scent, show them that you understand how to be respectful and that you are not a threat.  Whether I'm meeting a new dog for training, a dog at a friend or family members home or just a dog in the street I always follow this protocol to insure my safety and to show a dog that I understand how to meet. 

There are way too many dog's in America being euthanized for bites because of humans disrespecting their space and not understanding how to meet a dog properly.  Not every dog wants to receive affection immediately upon meeting.  I often hear about the dog who bit a human "out of nowhere" or "without warning" causing the dog to be labeled "unpredictable." The truth is dogs are very predictable and there are many instances where a dog is giving many warning signs of being unsure or nervous about an approach that a human is not receiving or aware of.  After giving warnings that are not being understood, a dog has no choice but to growl or even worse bite to protect themselves.

Next time you meet a new dog try the no look, talk or touch approach.  A fearful or nervous dog won't be overwhelmed and learn to see you as a non-threat with some time and patience which will also prevent an unnecessary bite.  An over-excited dog will settle down much quicker and prevent nipping and jumping.  A balanced dog will recognize your respectful behavior and accept you.  Give it a try, you may be surprised with the results!

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