How to approach, or not approach a person & their dog

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Raising Your Pets, Dogs and Cats Naturally


How to Pet and Approach A Dog

Should You Greet and Pet a Strange Dog?

How To Pet A Dog
How To Approach A Dog
In my profession, I have been hypervigilant in noticing how people greet other people and their dogs. Sometimes it is downright scary the way a stranger will approach another stranger and their dog. Honestly, I am surprised there are not more dog bites occurring during this uninformed greeting process. Kudos to those dogs for having SO MUCH tolerance.
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So, what is the best way to approach another human walking a dog? This post will address how a person without a dog should approach or greet another person with a dog. In the meantime, don’t forget to read my post on how kids should greet dogs. Some of this information will be the same because we all need to have better manners when meeting and greeting dogs.

First I want to bring up The Yellow Dog Project because I get a lot of people asking me about this. This is a movement to try to educate people that if a dog is wearing a yellow ribbon, that dog needs more space. The campaign promotes appropriate contact with those dogs. I think this is great! BUT, I feel this should be the case with ALL dogs, as you will soon learn. I wish this project was promoting proper interactions with ALL dogs because people should be learning how to interact properly with all dogs, not just ones with a yellow ribbon. I think they missed the big picture on this one, but my hat’s off to them for trying to bring awareness in greeting dogs.

  1. Not all dogs want to say hello to all people all the time. This is something dog-loving people have a hard time comprehending sometimes. After all, they are dog lovers, and all dogs love them. Well, I hate to burst bubbles, but that is not always the case. Please don’t take it personally, either. Just because a few dogs do not appreciate your intentions does not mean you are not loved by lots of dogs. ***Even if you have a regular meeting with another dog, you should still go through the proper greeting ritual each time you interact. Even very social dogs have their off days, or sometimes they are even in pain that you might not be aware of.
  2. Evaluate the dog from a distance. It is very important to do this before approaching a person and their dog. Just stop and watch what is going on. Does the dog seem comfortable and relaxed? What about the person? If either seems stressed or in a hurry, this would not be an ideal time for approaching. Try again another day.
  3. Approach slowly, relaxed and not making eye contact with the dog. Please, whatever you do, do not keep extended eye contact with a dog. This makes a lot of dogs very nervous and unsure of your intentions. We primates generally view eye contact favorably, but canines consider this threatening. So, as you approach, look at the person and casually gaze at the dog to read his body language.
  4. Stop 5-10′ away from the person and their dog. Look at the person and ask if you can say hello to their dog. Please don’t ask if their dog “is friendly” because even a friendly dog doesn’t always want to say hello. Not to mention, some people may take a bit of offense to this question. Wait for an answer. You are doing a great job so far and asking to greet, just don’t forget to actually wait for the person to either say “yes” or “no.” If the dog’s person says it is ok, ask what the dog’s name is.
  5. Ask the dog. Another step often overlooked is to actually ask the dog if he wants to say hello. Calmly say the dog’s name and quietly tap your outside leg and say “Hi, Dexter (insert the dog’s name).” You want the dog to come up to you; don’t rush up to the dog. ***If the dog comes up to you, gently pet under the dog’s chin, chest, and side area. If the dog moves away at any time, do not follow him, ask him to come back for more petting. If he doesn’t come back, he no longer wishes to be petted. ***Don’t get over-exuberant in your petting. For one, this can intimidate some dogs. Secondly, a lot of people are trying to teach their dogs not to jump up when being petted. Being overly excited can cause a lot of dogs to jump up.
  6. Thank you. Don’t forget to thank the dog and their person for allowing you to greet. “Thank you,” goes a long way in our society.


  • If the dog is barking or jumping around, do not approach.
  • Don’t put your face in a dog’s face.
  • Don’t approach a dog while he is eating or chewing a toy.
  • If a dog feels stiff, stop petting and back off.
  • If a dog keeps leaving you during petting, he probably does not want to be petted any more.

Have you and your dog ever been rushed by a stranger? Tell me in the comments.

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