How to Properly Greet a Dog (and How NOT to Greet a Dog) | Pupford
January 31st, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
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 kind of greeting unwelcomed, it’s 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.
HOW TO PROPERLY GREET A DOG
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 greeting a dog, keep these tips in mind (and be sure to get permission before approaching someone else's dog):
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 , which makes them less likely to react.
2. LET THE DOG APPROACH YOU
When greeting a dog, you want them to be in control of the situation so they’re as calm as possible. Let the dog approach you so the interaction happens at a pace they are comfortable with – 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 waving your arms around or lunging towards the dog suddenly.
On a similar note, 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 sake of 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.
HOW NOT TO GREET A DOG
More important than knowing how to greet a dog is knowing how NOT to.
Why is this so important? A dog who is approached in a startling or unfavorable way can develop severe fears, growl, and even bite. Think back to the supermarket example we gave earlier – how would you react in a situation like that?
So here are the things to absolutely avoid doing when greeting a dog:
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. If someone came at you blowing an air horn, how would that make you feel? Probably juuuust a little startled, at the very least.
3. STARE IN THEIR EYES
While 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 either really uncomfortable or even react aggressively.
4. LEAN OVER AND TOUCH THEIR HEAD OR FACE
Heads and faces are off-limits when it comes to 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 further 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 interaction should be led by the dog, 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!
Whenever you’re greeting a dog, it’s important to take a minute to assess their body language. 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 .
You can download the PDF version of this graphic, .
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 being uncomfortable with the interaction, respect their boundaries. They may warm up to you over time, but if they don’t, it’s not worth putting you and the dog in an unsafe position.
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).