How to Greet A Dog

As pet lovers, we have the best of intentions when showering love upon every dog we greet. However, even the nicest of dogs can sometimes be caught off guard and react with an unexpected response. Here are tips for how to greet a dog.

Safety First

Always think of your safety first. Greeting a dog should be a pleasant experience for you and the dog.

  • Never approach an aggressive dog, stray dog, or one contained in a confined space, behind a fence, or in a car.
  • Our natural reaction is to help an injured animal, but fearful, hurt animals do not understand good intentions and could be defensive; call for professional help.

“If a pet is injured, he could be in pain, and also scared and confused. It’s important to take precautions to avoid getting bitten or scratched. Pain and fear can make the behavior of animals unpredictable. Never attempt to hug an injured pet, and always keep your face away from the mouth,” said Dr. Laura Weis, co-owner of Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care.

How to Greet a Dog

In most instances, you will be walking through the neighborhood or enjoying family time at a park or public area when you see dogs you want to greet.

  • Always ask for an owner’s permission before greeting or petting a dog you do not know – not all dogs are friendly or like to be touched by strangers
  • Avoid direct eye contact with the dog
  • Approach the dog in a slightly sideways manner, never head-on
  • Do not reach for the dog; let the dog finish the approach
  • Allow the dog to sniff you
  • Remain calm and quiet – too much energy and loud talking can create anxiety and fear.
  • Offer your fist for the dog to smell, not your fingers
  • Do not get close to the dog’s face or give the dog a hug
  • For many dogs, especially those that are timid, a gentle scratch under the chin after the dog has the opportunity to sniff your hand, is more welcoming than reaching over their head

“Puppies and young dogs today are also emerging from the isolation of COVID-19 quarantine and restrictions. These dogs might be more apprehensive about meeting strangers while being socialized. The dog’s point of view should also be considered. It’s not a dog’s job to greet everyone that passes by. Asking the pet parent first and respecting their answer, is always the best approach,” said Jess Philp, training manager at Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center.

Socialization & Training

If you love going places with your dog then chances are people will be inclined to greet your dog. Unfortunately, not everyone will know the proper etiquette for how to greet a dog. Socialization and training will be essential in helping your dog feel more comfortable in different situations. Early training should include plenty of socialization and new situations for a puppy to experience around the home and away from home.

It is important for the pet parent to read their dog’s body language. “You know what is best for your dog, so it is ok to be confident in either allowing or declining a greeting. Letting someone know that you and your dog are working on training skills, and that the dog needs to remain focused on you is perfectly acceptable for declining an interaction,” added Jess.

There are many choices for dog training—from group classes to private training—to help build communication between you and your dog. Basic obedience, learning how to greet people, and proper leash walking are part of the training programs at Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center to help you and your dog navigate new experiences with confidence.