If you’re like us, the only thing that comes close to the joy you get from your own dog is meeting new dogs. However, even the most canine-savvy of us may not know all the best practices when it comes to meeting a new pooch. Here are some quick tips to remember in making new canine friends.
1. Always check with the owner and ask if there’s anything you should know
This especially goes if it is a random dog you see out and about, as opposed to a dog at a friend’s house. Check with the owner first: ask if the dog is friendly and if it alright if you say “hello.” If that’s ok, get down to the dog’s level, and make sure to avoid some common mistakes.
2. Avoid these common mistakes when introducing yourself
Get down to the dog’s level, and set yourself up for success:
Do not reach out to the dog. A common misconception is that if you stick your hand out, the dog can “catalog” your smell. Dogs can smell you from much further away than that. Sticking your hand out is asking to be bitten if you don’t already have trust with the dog.
Don’t be threatening. Making direct eye contact, “looming” over a dog, and showing teeth are all fairly obvious things to avoid. There are other things you may not think of. Make sure you greet the dog’s owner warmly and avoid physical contact with them until the dog trusts you. Hugs and pats on the back can be seen as aggression. Expose your side, not your front - it will make you less threatening. Always speak in a low, even tone: high-pitched baby talk can stress dogs out.
If you’re trying to bond with a friend’s dog, one of the best ways is through commands and rewards. Most likely, basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “shake” are getting worked on. Have the dog’s owner demonstrate and reward, then visibly hand you the training treats. Imitate them, giving the dog the command and the reward when they successfully perform the action. The dog will be (literally) eating out of your hand in no time.
3. Keep an eye out for signs of aggression or fear, and end the introduction with little excitement
Avoid direct eye contact, but keep a lookout for signs of aggression or fear. Those can include:
Pulling back ears
Bearing teeth or licking lips
Tail dropping between hind legs
Attempts to move away
Making themselves smaller/shorter
Noises like growling or sighing
When you are finished meeting the dog, don’t make a big deal out of it. Shouting “Bye, Fido!” while standing up quickly and waving can surprise a dog and make it extremely uncomfortable, leading to all sorts of unpredictability. Give the dog a light pat and move away with little fanfare. Hopefully, they will remember you and be eager to see you next time they catch your smell.
Remember, some dogs can take multiple visits before warming up to you, and some never will. Don’t be discouraged; not every dog will be your best friend, as much as you want them to. When introducing your own dog to strangers, accidents can sometimes happen. Keep a supply of Bio-nihilator around in case your dog tries to show you that they weren’t sure about that person you brought over.