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How to Greet a Dog Safely + How NOT to Greet a Dog | Pupford

September 27th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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Before we dive into how to greet a dog safely... 👇

Picture this:

You’re minding your own business in the grocery store, stocking up on your weekly necessities. Out of nowhere, a stranger approaches your cart, puts their hands in your face, and kisses you.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Well, more often than not, that’s how people greet dogs when they’re just going about their day.

Not only is that greeting unwelcomed, but it’s also alarming. And when dogs get suddenly stressed, it can lead to a number of bad situations ranging from a fear of strangers to a bite.

We don’t want you to be that guy in the grocery store when it comes to greeting dogs. So we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how – and how not – to greet a dog, so you can foster a safe and positive relationship with any pup you meet.

These tips particularly apply when approaching and meeting a new dog but can still be applicable after multiple interactions.

Related Reading: Training a Dog to Greet Strangers

HOW TO GREET A DOG FOR THE FIRST TIME

how to greet a dog graphic

We get it; making new dog friends is awesome. But we want you to do it safely and in a way that keeps everyone comfortable.

When approaching a dog, keep these tips in mind (and be sure to get permission before approaching someone else's dog):

  1. Remain calm and steady
  2. Let the dog approach you
  3. Hold non-threatening body language and positioning
  4. Pet the dog on their side or back

Let's look at each one below. 👇

🐶 Expand your knowledge of dog body language, signals, and comunication. Access the Dog Body Language Course here!

1. REMAIN CALM AND STEADY

Dogs can sense our energy and will respond accordingly. If you are calm, quiet, and steady in your first interaction with a dog, they will see that you’re not a threat and have an overall calmer demeanor.

Plus, not making sudden movements or noises reduces the chances of the dog being startled or scared, which makes them less likely to react.

2. LET THE DOG APPROACH YOU WHEN MEETING

when you meet a dog let them approach you do not go up to them first

When greeting a dog, you want them to control the situation so they’re as calm as possible. Let the dog approach you so the interaction happens at a comfortable pace – and without you being seen as a threat.

Over time they’ll likely open up and welcome closer contact like petting, but it’s important to let them take the lead.

3. HOLD NON-THREATENING BODY LANGUAGE AND POSITIONING

Your body language and positioning sets the tone for the greeting. Keep your body relaxed and avoid suddenly waving your arms around or lunging towards the dog.

Similarly, you want the dog to easily see you so they don’t feel threatened by your presence.

How do you do that?

Remain to the side of the dog and keep your body facing the same direction they are – avoid standing behind the dog or positioning yourself in a way that’s closing in on them.

4. PET THE DOG ON THEIR SIDE OR BACK

Once the dog is comfortable enough for you to touch them (with their human’s permission, of course), gently pet them on the side or back ONLY. If they show any tension or discomfort from your touch, stop and take a step back.

We know it’s hard to contain your excitement when you greet a dog. But for the dog’s well-being, you’ll have to take it slow. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time for belly rubs once the relationship is established.

Related Reading: Teach a Dog to Greet Guests Politely

HOW NOT TO GREET A DOG

how you should not greet a dog graphic

Knowing how NOT to is more important than knowing how to greet a dog.

Why is this so important? A dog approached startlingly or unfavorably can develop severe fears, growl, and even bite. Think back to the supermarket example we gave earlier – how would you react in that situation?

So here are the things to absolutely avoid doing when greeting a dog:

  1. Approach the dog quickly
  2. Speak loudly and suddenly
  3. Stare in their eyes
  4. Lean over and touch their face
  5. Grab and hug or kiss the dog

Let's look at each below. ⤵️

🐶 Expand your knowledge of dog body language, signals, and comunication. Access the Dog Body Language Course here!

1. APPROACH THE DOG QUICKLY

As excited as you are to greet the dog, avoid rushing toward them. It may be fine to run up to your own dog after a long day apart to greet them, but another dog who isn’t as comfortable with you may view this as an attack and go on the defensive.

2. SPEAK LOUDLY AND SUDDENLY

Loud and sudden noises can scare a dog and make them anxious. How would you feel if someone came at you blowing an air horn? Probably juuuust a little startled, at the very least.

3. STARE IN THEIR EYES

avoid eye contact with a dog when you meet them

While eye contact is important for training and bonding with your dog, it’s not advised for greeting another dog. It can be interpreted as a challenge and make a dog uncomfortable or react aggressively.

4. LEAN OVER AND TOUCH THEIR HEAD OR FACE

Heads and faces are off-limits when greeting a dog, period. Leaning over them may make them feel trapped and defensive.

Taking it a step further by touching their head or face intensifies that feeling – plus, it puts you in a vulnerable position for a potential bite.

5. GRAB AND HUG OR KISS THE DOG

As we mentioned earlier, the dog should lead the interaction, not you. Reaching out and grabbing, hugging, or kissing the dog is startling and often unwanted – just like the analogy we opened this article with!

When greeting a new dog, taking a minute to assess their body language is important. Every dog reacts to being approached differently – some welcome the attention with open paws while others need some time to warm up.

You can learn more about assessing a dog’s body language here.

HOW TO GREET A DOG AND HOW NOT TO GREET A DOG GRAPHIC

You can download the PDF version of this graphic, here.

HOW TO GREET A DOG & HOW NOT TO RECAP

As much as you want to become best friends with all the dogs you meet, let the dog control the situation. If they’re showing any signs of discomfort with the interaction, respect their boundaries.

Related Reading: Do Dogs Like Being Pet?

They may warm up to you over time, but it’s not worth putting you and the dog in an unsafe position if they don't.

Want to dive deeper into all things dog body language? Sign up for the Dog Body Language Course here!

We hope these tips help you interact happily with all the new dogs you meet going forward.

Oh, and as a reminder, don’t kiss strangers in the supermarket! (or anywhere, really).

🐶 Expand your knowledge of dog body language, signals, and comunication. Access the Dog Body Language Course here!

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