Greeting New Dogs
Learn to meet new dogs with polite and welcoming body language.
Greeting a new dog can be much more complicated than you think! Dogs communicate very differently from humans, and understanding what’s scary to them will help you a lot in making new doggy friends.
The first thing to understand is that dogs tend to bark if they’re afraid. So if your first meeting with a dog goes wrong and they bark, don’t be alarmed! Just back away and leave them alone. But don’t confront and try to pet a dog that is clearly afraid of you! This is a common cause of dog bites.
Dogs bark out of fear or for attention. If a dog is barking at you because you did something that scared them, they probably won’t come after you to bite. BUT, if you try to approach a scared dog in a way that is threatening to them (even if you think it’s friendly!), this is when dogs sometimes bite.
Just like people, dogs will defend themselves if they feel they are in danger. If you really need them to like you, take a step back and SHOW them that you aren’t a threat, by not looming over them, not making direct eye contact, and not facing them directly.
There are 3 main things about new humans that might be scary to a dog if they don’t know them. The easiest way to make sure your dog is never scared of new people is to socialize and build confidence as early as possible (check out our lesson on socializing and our lesson on BUILDING CONFIDENCE). And if you’re already working on those things, it helps to know how to ask new people to greet your dog!
The first thing to understand about how dogs see us humans, is that we are SUPER TALL compared to them! And if you already went through our lesson on FRIENDLY DOG PLAY then you know that standing above another dog or just being bigger can be a bit intimidating. So how do we change that to not be so scary? Well, kneel down of course! When you ask someone to pet their dog, if you kneel on one knee, you’ll usually instantly see the dog want to come up and say hi!
Another lesson from our FRIENDLY DOG PLAY is that dogs don’t like to stare each other in the eyes. It’s totally the opposite of humans! When we stare at other humans in the eyes, it means respect or affection, but for dogs it could be to scare or intimidate them. Keep in mind that this usually doesn’t apply to your own dog who loves it when you stare lovingly into their eyes.
The easiest way to make friends with a new dog is to simply turn a little bit to the side, and just don’t look them in the eyes! Try to match the examples above, and if someone asks to say hi to your dog, now you can show them how to do it!
Chances are that you probably already know this part. When you’re meeting a new dog, put your hand out to let them come up to you. DON’T try to reach your hand out above their head, that could be too scary! Here is a scared dog learning to take treats from strangers:
So now let’s try to put all 3 pieces together and make some new friends! Next time you go out, your goal is to meet new dogs and approach them 1. kneeling down, 2. turned to the side, and 3. with your hand out with a treat. Remember to act normal – keep talking like normal and don’t be too still.