Everyone knows how important it is to make a good first impression. This counts just as much for our canine friends as it does for other humans. Just like us, dogs are social creatures. We need to know how to make a polite greeting for them too.
Here’s how to ensure you don’t go barking up the wrong tree, and instead make a great first impression with a new dog!
First: What You Should NEVER Do When Greeting A Dog
We see the wrong kind of greeting behavior from humans everywhere, at the mall, dog park, dog-friendly bars and restaurants, and even dog-themed events around town. The first thing people do wrong when greeting a dog is to look directly at them, approach, and then reach out to pat their head. All of which make dogs pretty uncomfortable.
Dog’s norms in social behavior differ from humans, and body language is more important to them. Safely greeting a dog requires being aware of the signals you’re sending and interpreting them in proper dog language.
When you approach without respecting a dog’s space or send aggressive signals, you intimidate them. This can lead to a fear reaction or a defensive response from the dog, such as:
- Submissive Urination
The dog does not have to be predominantly fearful, timid, or aggressive for them to have these kind of reactions. Even the most playful and cheery pup can lash out to defend themselves if they feel threatened by you.
To avoid this, you need to control your approach and eliminate threatening signals such as:
- Prolonged eye contact
- Bending over the dog, or looming
- Petting dogs on top of the head
- Petting on their back
- Being face to face
Refraining from these signals keeps the dog much happier, and you much safer. Unintentionally threatening a dog, especially if your face is within biting range, can be quite dangerous for obvious reasons.
A less commonly known tip is to monitor your breathing. While you may never notice this, many people hold their breath when greeting others, whether human or otherwise. This may seem harmless to us, but it indicates fear or an imminent attack to a dog.
How Do I Properly Introduce Myself To A New Dog?
This is the easy part. Once you’ve gotten rid of old habits and become aware of your body language, you’ve gotten the hard work behind you. Now you just need a short course in dog etiquette.
Remember, you need to be respectful and careful when meeting any dog, not just fearful or aggressive ones. When greeting a new dog follow these steps:
- Don’t make eye contact
- Turn your body sideways
- Look around, or at the ground
- Reach underhanded to touch their chest or chin
- Make sure they can always see your hand
It’s actually not necessary to let them smell your hand before you start petting. Dogs have powerful noses and will already be well acquainted with your scent. Just be calm, slow, and reassuring the whole time and they’ll be able to relax.
With dogs that you know to be fearful or shy, don’t try to force a greeting. Sit down, act disinterested, and let them come to you of their own accord. Trust us, they’ll introduce themselves when comfortable and ready.
We like to use an analogy to help owners understand how dogs feel. Imagine you’re in an elevator and someone runs inside, gets right in your face, stares straight at your eyes, and reaches out to shake your hand. Sounds pretty uncomfortable and concerning, right?
Now imagine if someone entered, nodded, stayed to their side of the elevator, and then struck up conversation or said hello. That’s who our dogs want us to be: the nice elevator guy.
At DogBoy’s, our staff is well-versed in proper dog etiquette. If you want to brush up on those skills, or have more specific questions about how to nail your first impression, please contact us today!
Curious Dog by Mabel Lu
Fluffy Poodle by Evan Mitchell
Sad Sad Puppy by ocean yamaha