Hi, I’m Tracy Hotchner, the author of The Dog Bible. And I know that there are people who don’t have dogs — hard to believe. And many of you are not comfortable with dogs. So what I’d like to help you do is learn how to greet a dog you don’t know or a dog you’re a little worried about.
The first thing you want to do is say to the owner, “Is your dog friendly?” Often people will say “yes,” and they haven’t really stopped to think about it. So you have to look out for yourself. The first thing you want to do is not come over on top of the dog. That’s a very threatening, aggressive move to a dog. You don’t want to reach over their heads to pat them. If you wish to pat them, or teach your child to pat them, pat them on the shoulder, or pat them under the chest, not over the top of their head.
Another huge mistake people make is to take their fist and put it right in the dog’s face, as if to say, “Here, smell me.” I promise you, dogs can smell us from a mile away. We’re very fragrant, and they have very sensitive noses. You don’t have to put your hand in their face for them to be able to smell you. If the owner tells you the dog is friendly and you see friendly body language — a wagging tail, a relaxed body — then you can get down to the dog’s level and let the dog come to you. And you pat them down here, just not over the top of them.
One of the things that you want to look out for is a dog that seems all right in the beginning, but if you keep coming at them, it might seem threatening to them. Let the dog come to you. Let the dog make contact with you. If you have fears and doubts about whether you are comfortable with the dog, the best thing to do is to keep your distance. Don’t keep coming, you’ll probably frighten both of you. In the meantime, enjoy whatever other dogs you meet.