Dogs communicate with us through body language, facial expressions, and barks, whines, and growls. These signals can be challenging to interpret accurately.
These tips will help prevent biting and other antisocial behavior in dogs you know, and show you how to greet strange dogs in a nonthreatening manner.
- When you meet a strange dog, always ask the owner's permission before you touch the dog. Some dogs are working, like guide dogs, and must stay focused on their job. Other dogs should not be petted because they are sick, injured, shy, protective, or afraid of children.
- If you do have the owner's permission, approach the dog slowly and quietly, and offer the back of your hand, with your fingers slightly curled, for the dog to sniff. Ask the owner where the dog likes to be petted, and gently pet her there.
- Never approach a stray dog. Walk away slowly -- do not run. If the dog approaches you, stand still, with your arms at your sides, until the dog leaves -- a dog will chase you if you run away. Do not yell, wave your hands, or look directly into the dog's eyes.
- The American Kennel Club, in its publication The Complete Dog Book for Kids (Hungry Minds, 1996), offers this advice for how to greet a dog: "Approach a dog from the front or side. Hold your hands low and speak softly. Surprising a dog from behind, forcing him into a corner, waving hands in the air, or screaming may overexcite him, causing him to snap in fear or even in play."
Continued on page 2: A Dog's Space