How To Meet And Greet A Dog

Although dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, they still retain some of their old instincts. They can be territorial, defensive of food, determined to dominate creatures, and just plain boisterous––because that’s all acceptable, even necessary in a dog society. Depending on the individual dog, these traits are more or less obvious, but even the meekest little dog has a little bit of the wolf in him.

In order to understand how to meet and greet a dog, we must first think like dogs––to see things from their point of view. When a child greets a new dog by running up with wide eyes and a broad smile, crooning soft words, flinging arms around the dog’s neck and giving her a warm hug, if the dog snarls or snaps, it is easy to say the dog attacked without warning or provocation.

Things, however, can look very different from the dog’s perspective. The child was baring her teeth. We call it a smile, but bared teeth can be a sign of hostility to a dog. The soft words sound like a growl––and we all know that to a dog, growling is not a friendly gesture. The child was running––just the way a dog attacks another dog. Friendly dogs approach each other slowly, offering plenty of time for sniffing and learning each other’s scents. Finally, the child hugged the dog––which the dog interprets as physical domination. All in all, the child’s attempt to make friends could be, from the dog’s point of view, a very scary encounter.

Instead, until your new dog becomes comfortable with all the new members of his family, children should:

  • Stand quietly and allow the dog to approach;
  • Not stare directly into the dog’s eyes;
  • Wait until the dog sniffs the child’s outstretched fist;
  • Gently scratch the dog’s cheek, mimicking the way in which members of a dog pack exchange friendly greetings.

If your new dog seems nervous, give him some time to adjust. But establish the rules early in a fair, positive way.