While most dogs are friendly and they will enjoy the attention they’ll receive, it is not a good idea to assume that all dogs are easy-going. In fact, the majority of dogs are reluctant when it comes to strangers. So, you need to be careful when approaching a dog you’ve never met before, so you won’t trigger its self-defensive behavior.
Also, dogs tend to be protective of their owners and family, so if they will see you as a potential threat, there’s the risk of getting injured. You may be tempted to think that if you’re a friendly person, the dog will know and there will be no problem. A lot of people are confident that they are acting correctly, but the truth is that they are not. Check the pieces of advice presented below and do things the safe way.
Assess your own person first
It is worth remembering that dog is very good interprets of your body language. Thus, before you even try to approach a dog make an assessment of your state. How do you feel? Are you scared because you experienced bad incidents with dogs in your past? Or are you excited about what is about to happen?
Dogs are highly sensitive to your body’s posture and the movements you make. So, if you are stressed or scared, the dog can pick up the same state. Thus, it may not react in a good manner. Even if you are all excited, you still shouldn’t approach a dog, as it may get excited as well and jump on you.
The best way to do this is to calm down and try to approach the dog when you’re in a relaxed state. Of course, it is highly advisable to approach the dog’s owner as a first step.
Always ask permission from the dog’s owner
Unfortunately, many people skip this part and go directly to approaching the dog. This subjects them to a set of risks, even if we are talking about a small dog. For example, the small morkie is always alert and protective of its owner. Thus, it can snap at you if you are seen as a potential danger. The bite won’t be a large one, but it will still hurt and risk getting infected.
Never underestimate a dog, regardless of its size. Also, don’t assume that all dogs are friendly and well-socialized. Even if the dog is generally well-behaved, it may be taken by surprise by an unknown person and may not react as it usually does.
Many dog owners noticed that people don’t actually ask permission to approach their dogs, which also leaves them in the impossibility to predict the state of their dogs. So, they might not be able to control their dogs if they get scared or defensive. In other words, always ask the permission of the owner to approach a dog you’ve never met before.
Check out the body language adopted by a dog
Dog’s can’t speak, but you can tell how they feel by checking out their body language. It is easy to tell if a dog is relaxed and calm, interested, anxious, or aggressive, by looking at their bodies. So, as you get closer to the dog, continue looking at its body.
If the dog appears to become uneasy with your approach or manifest in a restless manner, it would be best to stop and avoid getting any closer. Also, growling, showing its teeth, whites of the eyes, and hair raised on the neck and back, are all signs indicating toward a potentially aggressive dog. Do not approach a dog presenting any of these signs, as you risk getting a bite.
Give the dog the chance to approach you instead
After you’ve asked permission from the dog’s owner and you’re close enough, give the dog the chance to approach you instead. Getting in the dog’s face can be rather invasive, so doing this instead will give the dog the chance to make the first move when it feels comfortable about it.
How about giving your hand to the dog to sniff it? You can do that, but don’t be pushy about it. Place it gently in front of the dog, but at a distance, so it won’t feel you being insistent about it. If the dog will want to smell you, it will come to you. Always keep a good distance between you and the dog, giving it the possibility to decide whether it feels like getting to know you or not.
Don’t make any kind of jerky or abrupt movements
Dogs are suspicious with strangers by nature, so it is not a good thing to startle them. They won’t trust you because they don’t know your intentions just yet. Besides having a calm attitude, it is also highly recommended to avoid moving in an abrupt or jerky manner.
Instead, move slow and allow the dog to anticipate your moves, by doing them in a deliberate manner. This will show the dog that you’re not going to represent a problem in any way.
Avoid bending over the dog or petting it on the head
Let’s say that everything went well so far and you’re sitting close to the dog. It smelled your hand and your interaction is great. You may want to keep it this way by avoiding to bend over the dog. This is seen as a sign of domination, so the reaction may not be a friendly one.
Also, if you want to pet the dog, never take your hand above its head. Some dogs find this intimidating, even threatening. Instead, touch the dog under its chin, on its neck, or side. This way, the dog can see the position of your head and won’t interpret it as a bad gesture.
As a dog owner, you should also keep an eye on people that wish to approach your dog. Although socializing dogs is a strong recommendation, it will not guarantee that your dog won’t get startled by strangers. So, keep an eye on your dog in order to notice if it feels uncomfortable in the presence of someone or in certain circumstances. Keep anyone from approaching your dog if you notice that it is not feeling comfortable about it.
For all dog lovers out there, do your best to respect the steps presented earlier if you want to avoid unfortunate events. This way, these encounters will be pleasant and less stressful for all the parties involved.