• Sylvie Parbus

Be Kind to Dogs: How to Introduce Yourself to Dogs You Don't Know

Picture this: You're at your favorite brewery. Usually, your dog is with you but today you've came straight from work and couldn't pick him up. It's okay though, dogs spark so much joy in your life you don’t even have to be around your own pup to get excited. As long dogs are around, you're happy. :) You love to pet every dog you see, but have you ever considered what this looks like from the perspective of the dog?


Walking up to a dog you don't know and petting them is the equivalent of someone giving you a hug without your permission. It's not cool! Yet, we do this to our canine friends all the time.


As humans, eye contact is the first thing we do when greeting each other, but for dogs that is not the case. We come at them with a big smile, exposing our canine teeth, looking them with our beady, squinting eyes. For most dogs, this comes off as predatory, confrontational and/or fear provoking.


Dogs are living souls, and they have the right to be touched or not be touched. So what can you do to show random dogs you're cool and come in peace?


  • Ask permission – Ask the owner if it is okay to stand near their dog. This shows respect, plus the dog will see the owner managing the process and this will help the dog feel calmer.

  • Stand up straight and don’t look the dog in the eye – This is an invitation in dog language to sniff. If the dog is interested, he will get up and sniff you. This is not an invitation to pet. The invitation comes after the dog has made a decision that you are okay. It also gives the owner an opportunity to read their dog and react appropriately.

  • Put your hand out and let the dog sniff you - Do this with no direct eye contact. If the dog nuzzles your hand and/or stays beside you, this might turn into an opportunity to touch. Watch for whale eye. Whale eye is indirect eye contact from the dog. The dog has the face turned but the eye is still on you. If you see the whites of the eyes and you see the dog braced, retract your hand and stand in a neutral position.

  • Make a fist and pet under the dog’s chin -If you go down with an open hand, it looks like five paws. It is especially threatening if you pet the top of the head.

  • When the dog relaxes, you can open your hands and pet – It is very important that you calmly pet the dog and not bring high energy to the encounter.


Follow these steps the next time you're out and you may just make some new dog friends.


Have you had an experience like this with your dog? We would love to hear about it. Share this article on Facebook and tell your story. Let's do the dogs of the world a real kindness and teach others the proper way to introduce yourself to a dog.

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