Secrets To Introducing Yourself To A Dog
In this article I’ll be delving into useful concepts like body language, our approach and what not to do when meeting a new dog for the first time. Observation is one of our most often used tools here at the training center, with it we can often quickly and accurately assess a dog’s temperament and personality in just a few minutes. And since we deal with all types of dogs here at the center it often keeps us safe. So let me share some Duffys secrets on how to properly observe, introduce and assess a new dog. Keep in mind that not all dogs want to interact with someone that they don’t know, if that is the case then you must respect the dog’s boundaries.
Dogs communicate thoughts and emotions through their body language, so that’s what we want to concentrate our observations on. Some postures and movements are subtle and takes a trained eye to see, so I’ll concentrate on easy to spot indicators. Please remember that this is just a guide and that there are too many different personality types to include them all in this article, it’s up to you to use good judgment when meeting an unknown dog.
Here are some things to look for that indicates that the dog may not want to interact with you. If the dog is shying away from you with their head or entire body it could mean that they don’t want to interact with you. If the dog’s hair along their upper back stands up (what’s called hackling) when you approach then it means that they view the encounter in a serious fashion. Any aggressive indicators like growling, snarling, deep guttural barking also indicates that they feel intense about the encounter with you. A strong stance with an intense unwavering stare directed at you along with a closed mouth indicates a serious disposition.
Now on too the fun stuff. Once we have excluded the above indicators and it seems that dog wants to interact with us then we move on to the approach, what to do and what not to do. First of all be natural, dogs no different then us are sensitive to weird or strange behaviors. Approach in a slow calm natural fashion. This method works for shy and rowdy dogs as it doesn’t amp them up one way or another. The old way of stretching out your hand to see if the dog will bite is wrong, instead try to keep your hands close by your side. The reason is that we do so much with our hands, an injury received there takes a longtime to heal. Instead approach with your body, a bite to the leg is much easier to take. If the dog seems receptive then reach out with a closed fist presenting your knuckles (enclosing the fingers allows us to protect those fragile digits), if that goes well then most likely the dog would be inclined to be petted.
Most encounters with a dog are going to be pleasant as most like affection. So don’t worry too much about the greeting but for those of us who work with dogs on a daily basis having a way to greet new dogs safely is a must. This method was developed to also put dogs at ease, it’s so important that we are respectful to dogs as well as to people. Here at Duffys we acknowledge that dogs have personalities as varied as grains of sands on a beach so we attempt to cater to all of them. Now go out and pet some puppies!
– Josh Decker, Dog Trainer