Hmmmm, do ya? I bet most of you don't!
For the most part, dogs don’t want to be petted by complete and total strangers. It would be like you walking up to a stranger on the street and giving them a hug. Some people are into that, but most are not. Most humans want to keep to themselves and not interact with strangers. The same cannot be said when we see a cute dog on the street. Most people use high-pitched, excited voices and immediately want to touch the dog in some way. Dogs don’t like that crap. Sure, Goldens and Labs have never met a stranger, but I’d like to see someone run up and give a Basenji a kiss on the head. This is why so many people are getting bit! They don’t/can’t read the body signals of an uncomfortable dog and keep pushing until the dog is so horribly overwhelmed and uncomfortable, that he bites. Children especially can’t see these signs and their parents haven’t taught them the proper way of meeting a dog. Here are the do's and don'ts:
Don't: stare at the dog. I purposefully avoid all eye contact with strange dogs because eye contact is threatening in the dog world, literally the opposite of the human world. Humans are taught throughout life that eye contact is respectful. Don’t do that to a dog unless you really know each other.
Do: Let the dog greet you. I’m not talking about shoving your hand in his face! Let the dog smell you on his own accord. Usually, he'll sniff the shoe and pants area as he can get a lot of information. Sometimes it can get a little awkward when he start smelling your personal areas, but he's not being crude, he's just getting information about you so calm down.
Do: Listen to the dog. If the dog wants to engage with you at this point he’ll tell you. He’ll lean on you or look up to your face; if he's not into you he'll walk away. It's really that simple.
Don't: Loom overhead. If all systems are go and he wants to interact with you, feel free to get on his level and not bend over the top of him. This can be scary to some dogs, especially little dogs. Unfortunately, this is the way our anatomy is; we bend at the waist and most dogs are shorter than our standing arm’s reach. Thats why I suggest squatting or sitting in a chair where he can solicit attention from you. Not you shoving your attention onto him.
Do: Pet his body. Pet an unfamiliar dog on the chest, side or back. not on the top of the head. Have you ever been patted on the head when you weren’t expecting it? It’s very startling when you don’t see it coming. This is true for dogs as well. Most dogs don’t actually like being petted on the head at all! Stick to body scratches or belly rubs (if that's what the dog wants) with an unfamiliar dog.
Sometimes I think people think I’m being cold when I meet a new dog, but really, I’m putting the ball in his court and trying to make him as comfortable as possible. I want to pet a dog that wants to receive attention, not force myself on him! I let a dog I'm unfamiliar with call all the shots and that's how it should be. For the safety of the dog and the human!
PS. Always ask the owner for permission to pet their dog! They know their dog much better than you do.
How do you greet a strange dog? I hope it follows these guidelines.
See ya'll next week