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What Should You Do When You Meet a Dog for the First Time?

What Should You Do When You Meet a Dog for the First Time?

Hi human! I love love love making friends, and I love meeting new people! Most of us dogs do because we’re super social and we love attention!

And I know that most of you humans love meeting us too because every time I’m on a walk and another human walks past they wave at me and go ‘aww’ really loud. (It’s because I’m incredibly cute and adorable, we dogs just are.)

However, sometimes I get really shy and nervous when meeting a new human. You are usually a lot bigger than us, and we’re so used to our own human that sometimes we don’t know if a new one is good or bad.

But you can help put us at ease by saying hello in the best way possible.

dog and man in sunlight

The basic rule when meeting a dog for the first time is that you should be calm and move slowly.

I know you probably just want to run over and hug me because I’m so cute, but I might take that as an intimidating move and I might either become scared and run away or get defensive!

So the best thing you can do is to let me make the first move. Once I’ve decided that you’re not a threat, I’ll come over and say hi!

Next, let me sniff you! We analyze almost everything through our incredible sense of smell, so if you let me sniff you before you try and touch me I’ll be able to get an idea of who you are, and I will feel much more comfortable!

Once you can tell that I’m happy and at ease, you can go ahead and pet me. I’ll probably want to play with you and get all the love, and it will be so much fun!

How do you introduce yourself to a dog?

If you see me and want to introduce yourself to become friends, that’s great! But it’s important that you do it properly so that we’re off to a good start.

If I’m with my human, you should probably first ask them if it’s okay to say hello to me. My human is the boss! (And also my human usually knows what’s best for me and what mood I’m in, they’re so clever!)

To start off your introduction, the best thing is for you to crouch down to my level and extend out your hand for me to sniff it. That’s like you saying “hello this is me”, and then I get a chance to say “okay”. You can talk to me too so that I know that you’re friendly!

Then, if I’m happy to have you near, you can try petting me! Try not to do it on my head or from above, as I might get scared.

It makes you look more like a giant and that can make me nervous. Instead, you can pet me from the side, and I’ll really love that!

If I’m shy (sometimes I am), then just wait for me to make the first move. It might take a while, but eventually, I’ll become comfortable around you and I’ll decide I do want to play after all!

What should you not do when introducing yourself to a dog?

Okay, so I’ve told you how to introduce yourself to a dog, and it’s pretty simple and easy. But it’s also important to know what not to do!

Something you definitely should not do is hold eye contact with me. We dogs interpret eye contact as a sign of being threatening, and almost as an intimidation tactic.

If you look us straight in the eyes and then hold your stare, we’ll quickly get restless and defensive, and we won’t feel comfortable at all. So please don’t do it!

Oh, and when you’re extending your hand out for us to sniff it, it’s best if you keep your hand closed, instead of having it open. We find a closed hand to be a lot less threatening!

You should also avoid making a move to pet us if we’re showing signs of being uncomfortable. But how can you know what we’re feeling? Well, you need to pay attention to our body language, as that is one of the major ways in which we communicate!

Signs that we’re not comfortable or happy:

  • Tail:

If my tail is wagging, it usually means I’m happy and ready to have fun.

But if my tail is tucked between my legs, really low down, then that’s usually a clear sign of me being scared, and of submission.

It means I’m not comfortable with the situation, so you should not force the introduction and leave me be until I feel better.

  • Ears:

If my ears are up and facing towards you, then it means I’m either interested and listening to you or feeling aggressive. (You can usually tell between the two really easily by looking at the rest of my body language!)

However, if my ears are flat against my head, then that’s a sign that I’m scared and acting submissive. The best thing to do is to leave me be until I’m feeling more comfortable!

  • Eyes:

My eyes can also be an important part of my body language, so it’s something you should also pay attention to! If I’m happy and interested in you, my eyes will look normal.

But if I’m feeling stressed, then I’ll be giving you a side-eye, and you’ll be seeing the white of my eyes.

It’s important that you make sure I’m not stressed and uncomfortable. Especially because my stress can sometimes come across as excitement!

If in doubt, just let me make the first move. If you give me enough space, I will feel a lot better and will eventually want to play with you as friends!

How do you say hello in dog language?

We don’t understand your human languages, so if you want to say hello why don’t you speak in dog and say ‘woof’? Then we’ll actually understand!

Okay, okay, I’m just joking. We might not understand the words exactly, but we can understand what you mean through your tone and pitch of voice, as well as the volume paired with your actions.

You can say hello by getting down to our level and letting us sniff you. And if you really want to, you can sniff me too!

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