There is no question that dogs are amazingly loving companions that enhance our lives with joy, friendship, and adventure. That being said, there is also a certain amount of precaution to take when approaching and interacting with dogs – even with your dog! Just think about it, if you didn’t have speech capabilities and someone was doing something that you didn’t like, you’d have to express it physically – and in a not-so-nice manner. Usually dogs let it be known that they are uncomfortable with a situation by growling, barking, snarling, snapping, or even sometimes biting. Even if your dog “loves everyone” and has “never had a problem” with people before, that doesn’t mean that the risk of a possible dog bite doesn’t exist. You never know what is going to happen if a dog is approached incorrectly! Here are a few ways that you can make sure that you aren’t bitten by a dog:
- Never Just Approach a Random Dog – Always ask permission first before approaching a dog on a leash, because you don’t know what the dog’s personality is like. Not every dog is the most friendly – many are actually quite grumpy, protective, or just stressed out. ALWAYS ask the owner of the dog first if you may say hi to the dog. THEN…
- Use Caution and Patience When Greeting a Dog – Once you gain permission to greet the dog, approach it slowly and with no sudden movements. You aren’t aware of any past traumas that the dog has regarding possible abuse or neglect, so don’t rush up to the dog while shoving your hand in its face. That is definitely NOT the proper way to greet a dog (but I have seen people do it many times).
- Get on the Dog’s Level BUT DO *NOT* PUT YOUR FACE IN ITS FACE – If you were a creature that is low to the ground, would you want a lumbering, giant-like person to be hovering over you with their hand coming towards you? I doubt it. Put yourself in the dog’s position (literally), and try to be as nonthreatening as possible. When you do get on its level, do *NOT* stick your face in its face, since this is seen as a threat and/or a challenge to the dog. This is literally how people get bit in the face by dogs.
- Let the Dog Sniff You First – Before even putting your hand out to pet the dog, just let the dog sniff you, your shoes, your pants, your leg, etc. before you proceed. The way that dogs adjust to a situation is by smelling their surroundings, so if you don’t give them the opportunity to smell you, you’re just a random, intimidating giant that is shoving their hand into their personal space.
- Slowly Extend Your Hand in their Line of Sight – DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT just instantly put your hand over their head and go to pet their back. They still don’t know you and you are a stranger to them, so if you put your hand suddenly over their head where they can’t see it, they’re going to wonder what you are doing and probably be alarmed by it. Keep your hand in their field of vision, preferably under their chin, so that they don’t become afraid by a mysterious hand touching them where they can’t see it.
- Move Your Hand Around the Side of Their Head to Pet Them – If the dog is responding well to your spontaneous meeting, then you can move your hand around the side of their head – so they can peripherally see where your hand is going – and pet them nicely and softly. If they like it, they will probably put their ears down and close their eyes. If they don’t like it, they will probably freeze still and their eyes will be wide – this means that you should probably stop petting them.
That should be a good start in order for you to exercise the proper caution towards dogs that you do not know. As a dog owner, here are a few things that you should follow:
- NEVER Leave a Child Unattended With a Dog – Children are just as unpredictable as dogs, so together they could form a harmful situation. There are too many videos circulating online where children are poking, grabbing, jumping on, and even HITTING dogs. This is NOT cute, because it could result in a potential dog bite that can hurt the child, and possibly result in the dog’s euthanasia.
- ALWAYS Educate Children on How to Approach Your Dog – Like I said, children in general are very unpredictable, and may just treat dogs like their own personal stuffed animals. They may get away with this at first, but eventually (if not immediately) the dog will be tired of this borderline abusive behavior and react with a snap. Don’t let that happen to any child, and don’t let your dog be punished for someone’s unruly kid.
- Don’t Hug a Dog Unless You Know It’s Okay – Dogs typically don’t like hugging, because it not only is very invasive of their personal space, but it basically diminishes their ability to defend themselves. Do you let random people hug you that you don’t know? Probably not, so why should a dog let you hug them without their consent? Even if it’s your own dog, make absolutely sure that they actually appreciate this form of affection. One of my dogs loves hugs and cuddles, but a couple of my other dogs do not appreciate it at ALL and respond with growling and trying to get away.
If you have these simple things in mind when approaching a dog, then you should be fine. Just remember, at ANY TIME, if a dog seems that they are not into the whole “meet and greet” situation that you are trying to impose on them – just call it quits and move on with your life. Don’t force your petting or scratching on them, thinking that they’ll like it. They are giving you signals that say otherwise, so don’t ignore them! You don’t want to become a statistic that could end up on an infographic such as this one!