Dog lovers can hardly resist greeting a cute dog, or for that matter almost any dog. Just like people, some dogs are more friendly with strangers, while others are less friendly. To complicate matters, dogs don’t read body language the same way people do. A polite greeting for a person isn’t necessarily polite to the dog. See how to NOT greet a dog.
1) Don’t lean over the dog and stick your hand in his face.
Leaning over a dog is a sign of dominance. Many dogs find this threatening behavior. Some dogs will cower, while other dogs might growl or even bite. Sticking your hand or fingers in front of a dog’s mouth might encourage him to bite them.
2) Don’t lean over the dog and stick your hand on top of his head.
Again, leaning over a dog is a sign of dominance and many dogs do not appreciate that. Most dogs don’t like having the top of their heads touched. For that matter, most people don’t want a person to come up and pat them on the head either.
3) Don’t grab or hug the dog.
Hugging a dog increases the dog’s stress level. When dogs are in danger, their first response is to run away from it rather than fight. When you hug a dog, you are immobilizing it and taking away its option to run away. This increases stress and dogs don’t appreciate it.
4) Don’t stare a dog in the eyes.
Dogs find staring very aggressive. When dogs stare at each other, one of two things will happen. One of the dogs will look away to de-escalate the situation, or the dogs will fight. Dogs behave similarly when people stare at them. I once had a little 10-pound Shih Tzu. If I stared into her eyes, she would start to growl and then if I didn’t look away, try to bite me on the nose. Dogs find staring rude.
5) Don’t shout or squeal in the dog’s face.
Shouting or squealing at a dog increases stress. The dog thinks the situation is unstable or perhaps the environment is unsafe. What people understand as excitement, the dog understands it as instability or something to be cautious about. Fearful dogs may even be provoked to attack.
6) Don’t grab a dog’s head and kiss him.
This is an invasion of space. Just like people, dogs do not want their space invaded. How should you greet a dog? First, if possible, let the dog approach you. Or slowly approach the dog not directly but along the side. Look away from the dog avoiding eye contact. Pet the dog on the back or side, or stroke the side of the dog’s face. Respect the dog and the dog’s space. When speaking to the dog use a calm, soft voice. Allow the dog to sniff you. Dogs understand the world more through smell than sight or hearing. If the dog freezes or withdraws, stop what you are doing and allow the dog to have space.
These tips are most important when meeting an unfamiliar dog.
If the dog knows you, the dog likely will tolerate more impolite behavior than from a stranger (just like people). If you remember how to NOT greet a dog, you can not only become friends with a new dog faster but potentially avoid an accident or even a tragedy.