Do you know there is a right way and a wrong way to pet your dog? Yes! If you think you have been petting dogs the right way, you may be wrong, especially when it comes to strange dogs. Though dogs are better at accepting affection from their owners and strangers than cats, it is better to approach them correctly. Why? Because when you approach and pet them incorrectly, it can make them aggressive and defensive. That is not good either for the dog or you.
The urge to pet a stray dog or someone else’s pet dog is understandable. However, it is stressful for a dog, which is why everyone should follow some etiquette when petting a dog, especially a stranger. Not sure which method to use? Don’t worry; the below article discusses the same.
Before petting or approaching a dog, ask first.
You might not be able to resist the urge to pet someone else’s dog, but you should. Even if a dog appears friendly, it is always polite to ask permission from the owner before approaching and petting someone’s dog, according to Etiquette. Follow these rules:
- Respect the owner of the dog and ask permission before touching the dog.
- If they say no, take no offense, as they know their dog best. The dog might be under stress or not feeling well, and petting them may lead to more problems.
- Allow the dog to come to you if the person holding the dog’s leash says yes to petting. Why? Because it allows the dog to determine whether he wants to be petted by you or not. Talking about leashes, buy the best and most sturdy ones for your dog from Alpine Dogs.
- If the dog approaches you and is wagging its tail, pet them. But if they look the other way, do not pet them; give the dog some time.
How to approach a dog with no owner
If the dog is a stray or doesn’t have any owner in sight, be careful about approaching and petting them. Put yourself in a position where you can defend yourself if necessary. If you see any signs of aggression, stop trying to pet them and leave the area.
Never loom around a dog.
When approaching a dog, whether pet or stray, never hover or loom over them, as they will perceive it as a threat. Instead, try a side-on approach with a dog and not a full-frontal one. Let the dog move towards you, and if the dog shows interest, bend slightly at your knees and pat your thighs to encourage them to come to you.
Don’t make extended eye-contact
Making and holding eye contact amongst humans is necessary, as it shows confidence and trust. But it is not the same with dogs. They feel threatened if a dog sees a stranger making prolonged eye contact. If the owner permits you to approach the dog, avert your eyes slightly, or don’t maintain steady eye contact with the dog. Speak and walk gently, and the dog will let you pet him.
Coax shy dogs to come to you
If you are squatting, but still the dog is acting skittish or shy, it is time to take a different approach. For example, avoid making eye contact; instead, make gentle coaxing noises. It should be quiet—nothing loud that can startle the dog. Turn to one side, as it will make you appear less threatening. If the owner is there, ask for the name and use it to make the dog comfortable.
Take your fist out
If, after trying these steps, the dog seems relaxed and is not showing signs of discomfort or aggression, offer your fist. Hold it towards the nose, and if the dog approaches to sniff the back of your hand, it is a good sign. Tips:
- Don’t offer an open hand, as it may appear as a threat or treat for a dog who may bite you.
- Sniffing doesn’t mean the dog is allowing you to pet him. Let him finish sniffing, then move on to petting him.
Scratching the ears
If the dog is happy and licking you, you can pet him. Begin with the ears, approaching from the head and gently scratching them.
If the dog is okay with this, you can pet their other areas, like their neck or shoulders. However, if the dog is a stranger, avoid touching their jaw, as they may not like it. And no dog likes it when you pet their tail, legs, or private parts.
Don’t try hugging the dog.
Even if the dog allows you to pet him, it is best not to hug him. Dogs are not pro-hugging, and you should respect their choice. Your dog may not like being hugged much, which you can tell by looking at its mouth. Hugging is okay if their tongue is out and they seem relaxed and leaning into you. But if they are turning away, it is best to avoid hugging them.
When should I not approach or touch a dog?
Understanding when to avoid touching or petting a dog is necessary, as it ensures the safety of everyone. Look for signs of aggression or anxiety, as it will help you avoid petting a dog at the wrong time.
Signs of aggression in dogs
Even the dog you pet every day in the park can show aggression sometimes. It happens to even the happiest-go-lucky dog. They can feel threatened by a stranger’s touch or for other reasons, and being aggressive is their way of protecting themselves. Here are a few signs of aggression that you should look for in dogs before approaching them:
- The dog will try to appear larger by forwarding the ears or standing up the fur on the tail and back.
- If the dog’s tail is wagging, it is a sign that he is becoming aggressive to protect himself.
- A more obvious sign is a dog baring its teeth, lunging, growling, and barking. Never approach a dog to pet them when they are showing such behavior. Let them calm down.
Signs of Anxiety
- An anxious dog may bite, and you should avoid approaching a dog who is showing signs of fear or anxiety. The signs include:
- A dog is trying to make himself appear smaller by shrinking to the ground, lowering his ears, flattening his ears, and yawning.
- A dog hiding or retreating where no one can approach them may also be a sign of an anxious or stressed dog.
- If you see these signs and try to approach them, the dog will bite you. It is best to give the dog space to calm down.
To conclude, don’t approach a dog just because it is wagging its tail. It doesn’t always mean you are welcome to pet them. It can mean they are scared or feeling aggressive. Thus, look at their whole body to get the full picture.
Dogs are cute, loyal, and fun to be around for a dog lover. But no matter how comfortable your dog is with your petting, it will not hurt to follow these tips while petting your dog. Most importantly, follow these tips when petting a stray dog or someone else’s dog. It allows the dog to stay calm and happy and not be aggressive, which is best for everyone.