Do you like everyone you meet?
Do you want to talk to everyone all of the time?
Are you happy with strangers touching you randomly?
No? So why do we expect all of this from our dogs?
Not every dog wants to be petted, and most dogs do NOT want to be hugged.
Unfortunately, the manner in which most people greet dogs can be scary or threatening to them. If you reach a hand over the top of their head, they can’t see what you are doing, and so this makes them uncomfortable.
- Never approach an unattended dog.
- Always ask the owner prior to approaching their dog – and respect their response! There are so many reasons that they may not want you interacting with their dog – he may not be feeling well, he might have an injury, he just might not like being touched.
- If you have children, teach them to ask you to ask the owner if they can stroke them. If you tell them to ask the owner themselves, you’re advocating talking to strangers and that people with dogs are trustworthy…
- Never stroke or touch a dog when he can’t see you approaching! You are likely to scare him, and that could result in a defensive reaction from him.
- Don’t shove your hand in the dog’s face to sniff. Have your hand by your side, wiggle your fingers and see if the dog wants to interact with you. And respect their need for space if they choose not to engage.
- Don’t lean or bend over a dog; squat down near them instead – it’s less scary for them.
- Give chest or chin rubs instead of reaching over to stroke the dog’s head or back. This keeps your hands where they can see them.
- Do not hug a dog, or put your face close to theirs – most dogs hate this, and you can tell by the way they’ll look away from you.
- Avoid staring at a dog in the eye – it can be really intimidating and threatening.
- Do not touch a dog that rolls over onto his back when you approach – it’s less likely that they’re asking for tummy rubs, more likely that they’re showing they’re not a threat and asking politely for you to go away.
- Leave a dog alone if they move away from you, or show any sign of being timid, upset or stressed. .
For more, read our article about how to tell if a dog is stressed.