By Rebecca Lewis

While we want to be every dogs’ friend there are certain ways to safely go about approaching your new furry friend.

Recently Animal Emergency Service ran a booth at New Farm Park, giving first-time animal owners free vet advice and answering pet questions. One of the most repeated questions that was asked on the day was, “How do I greet a dog?” Questions ranged from, “If I smile, does the dog think that I am baring my teeth?” to “Is it wrong for children to hug stranger’s dogs?”

If you are anything like the veterinarians and veterinary nurses that work at AES, we have to suppress our urge to run to every animal, pick it up and smother it with kisses! But imagine if a stranger ran to you from the other side of the street, picked you up off your feet and started holding you against your will and kissed you. You would probably strongly object! Since a dog’s best weapon is their teeth, they generally bite…and bite HARD. So how do we appropriately greet a dog?img_9950

1. Always ask the owner

You must ALWAYS ask the dogs owner. There are many dogs that are totally fine with their owners, yet when presented with a stranger, can react in extremely different ways. By asking the owner you have a generalised idea of the dog’s behaviour (and have the opportunity to make a new doggy best friend!).

2. Approach the dog slowly

With any animal (or person) with anxiety, the worst thing anyone can do is to rush the situation. By running up to an animal, you are immediately putting them on the defense and they can potentially view you as a predator or become frightened. By approaching them slowly you are giving them time to assess the situation, respond to you and react accordingly if they are uncomfortable.

3. Get down on their level

By crouching down to the level of the pet you are putting yourself in an equal situation to the dog. By patting a dog while,  you are in a dominating position and controlling. By getting down to their level, it tells the dog that you are not a threat and open to interaction.

4. Wait for the pet to approach you and pat gently

By waiting for the dog to approach you the meeting is 100% on his/her terms. If they’re not feeling it, they have the opportunity and chance to remove themselves from the situation. By allowing them to smell you, assess you and decide if they wish to be friends,  you are more inclined to have success. It is to be noted that even if the dog is sniffing, you must refrain from patting the dog if it looks scared or nervous.

img_9852Once these small changes are made to the way that you great animals, then congratulations! You are officially a responsible pet greeter. Owners will be really grateful that you’ve taken the time to listen to them and their pets and you will have the opportunity to make friends with most fluffy-pals who cross your path. It’s a win-win all round!