Just as being polite to people can keep us from being “snapped at,” so being polite to dogs can help keep things friendly. Dogs are as diverse and individual as people are. Many are outgoing, cheerful, and eager to meet anyone they see. Some are less social and do not enjoy meeting or being petted by strangers. Many sensitive dogs, just like many sensitive people, are happy to say hi, when you politely give them a chance to warm up at their own pace.
As with people, basic good manners will help you get off to a good start with dogs. By following these simple principles and teaching your children to follow them, you can keep yourself and your children safer around all dogs, and more dogs will be happy to greet you.
Don’t stare– Just as it is rude to stare at people, it is rude to stare at dogs. You might be looking at the dog because you think she’s so cute or to say hi to her, but the dog might misunderstand, thinking you’re challenging or even threatening her. Some people have a more intense gaze than they realize, and might not realize that it comes across as staring, which can get you off on the wrong foot with a dog you’re meeting.
Instead…Glance briefly at the dog, then look at her owner and ask about the dog– What’s her name? How old is she? What breed? Is she friendly? Most people love to talk about their dog, and this gives the dog a chance to get used to you before you say hi to her. Smile at the dog without making direct eye contact. Standing sideways, so you’re not facing the dog, can help you avoid coming across as staring.
Don’t get in their face– You know that doing that to a strange human would be rude, maybe even seen as aggressive, so do not unintentionally “pick a fight” with a dog. Even dogs who seem enthusiastic about greeting you should be treated with respect. Part of loving and understanding dogs is knowing how to greet them in ways that do not overwhelm or confuse.
Instead… Stop handshake distance away. Just as you would with a person you don’t know well, stop outside the dog’s personal space and let him make the next move. You probably wouldn’t greet a person you don’t know well by going close and running your fingers through their hair, and neither should you greet an unknown dog that way. Let him come to you, if he wants to be closer. If he doesn’t come close, assume that he is saying in his own way, that he’d prefer not to be touched right then.
No head patting– Most people don’t like to be patted on top of the head, and most dogs don’t like it either. Somehow it seems natural to us to pat a dog on his head; after all, it’s the highest point and easiest to reach, but that doesn’t mean it’s polite. Sensitive dogs might be intimidated and some more confident dogs might react as if you’re being rude, even though you’re trying to be friendly.
Instead… When first greeting a new dog, hold your hand out, palm up, and, if the dog comes up to you, gently scratch under his chin or neck. This is a respectful, non-intimidating way to pet a dog, and most dogs love to be petted this way. Shy dogs tend to be more comfortable with this form of petting and confident dogs are usually happier with it too.
By approaching a dog you haven’t met yet in this way– avoiding direct eye contact, letting the dog come up to you, and petting him under the chin– you will be greeting him in a way that makes sense to him and gains his trust. In turn, he is more likely to greet you as a friend.
By Melissa Fischer, PuppyHomeschool.com