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How to greet a new dog

5 Tips to Greeting a New Dog

I was a dog trainer before I took the leap into full time pet photography.  I will always be a dog trainer first, and my main goal is always the safety of dogs during a photo session.  When it comes to working with fearful, anxious, and reactive dogs, it’s not about becoming their “friend” – it’s about making them comfortable and to have an enjoyable photo session!  This week I’m sharing some tips that I use when greeting a new dog, and I hope that you will find this beneficial, too!  Having my own dog with a small “circle of trust”, I admit to being much more cautious when meeting new dogs.

Dog Training North of Boston
Some dogs need space

1. Always Ask For Permission

I can’t say this enough!  Always, always ask the owner for permission to greet their dog.  Their dog may look sweet and approachable, but that may not always be the case.  I also start with a “may I say ‘hi’ to your dog?” And on the other side if it is your dog someone is asking to “say hi” to, it’s ok to say “no” and be your dog’s voice. Remember, we have to be advocates for our dogs.  My dog, Kota, draws a lot of attention and children always want to pet her.  Kota isn’t comfortable with that, so I make sure we always have the bubble of space to keep everyone safe. I’ve learned that communicating this with children is so important. Also, the dog may usually be happy-go-lucky and friendly, but may be feeling ill that day and he/she may need some extra personal space.

How to Greet a Dog-6
Flowers won't always win a dog's heart

2. Avoid Eye Contact

Try NOT to stare at the dog.  Do your best to ignore them.  Stay calm and relaxed. Turn slightly to the side. To a dog that may be a little anxious or worried, that direct eye contact may seem threatening to them.

3. Let The Dog Come To You

Never reach out and NEVER hold a treat out for a fearful dog to come to you.  Sometimes people think that treats will make them best friends with a dog.  When you hold out a treat for a dog that is fearful, you’re  then putting them into a challenging situation to make a decision – they might be afraid to say “hi” … but there is a treat involved, too!  That’s not fair to the dog.  Let the dog come to you on his/her own terms and pay attention to the body language – are they relaxed and wiggly? I recommend this with meeting any new dog. 

Broken Creek Vineyard Dog Session
He's wiggly and friendly!

4. Pet UNDER The Chin

You might be inclined to want to stick your face right in the dog’s face and accept those licks and kisses.  Remember… I’m about safety first!  Be gentle and reach your hand below the dog’s chin, where he/she can see your hand.  You may also  be inclined to pat the dog’s head, but once your hand reaches over the head, they lose sight of your hand and that might be scary for them. Think about if a random person came to you and started stroking the top of your head…. or what if someone you didn’t know come up to you and gave you a big bear hug? I bet that would catch you off guard and you might swing a fist!  

How to greet a new dog
Below the chin is the way to the heart

5. End The Greeting On Their Terms

Always let the dog end the greeting.  They will let you know!  Try not to get offended 🙂 The more space you give a dog, the more likely they will trust you. 

Dog walker getting to know dogts
Local dog walker and friend with pups

Hope you enjoyed these tips!  This post is part of a blog circle from pet photographers around the world!  Next up my friend Tracy Allard, the dog trainer behind the lens of Dallas-Fort Worth’s award winning pet photography studio Penny Whistle Photography, shares how to greet a dog the correct way.

6 thoughts on “5 Tips to Greeting a New Dog”

  1. Great post Darlene, I too always have my dog trainer cap on and can’t help but to guide and cringe in equal parts when I see people greet new dogs. We have so much work to do to train the public. I laughed out loud when I read that Kota has a “small circle of trust”, we always said that our dog Penny had a “small circle of friends” and doesn’t really feel the need to make it any bigger. Ginger is the same. How do these dogs always seem to find us?

  2. Great tips on greeting a new dog. Our dog also has a small circle of trust but she gives so much love to us. This is the second dog we had that was like this. Like Tracy Allard said “how do these dogs always find us” ?

  3. Great tips! Thanks for including the section on ending the greeting on their terms, that is such a good point to make. Sometimes the friendliest dog, can only take so much before needing a break. I’ve always had people loving dogs until I took in my malinois, she too has a small circle and whenever I walk her, I have to be aware of my surroundings because I have had a kid run-up to her once and a person who tried to pet her. It’s exhausting being the human who has to watch for people who don’t know better, instead of being able to enjoy the walk.

  4. Great post, Darlene. Avoiding eye contact is an on-point addition to the mix, as well as letting the dog be the judge of when to end tbe greeting.

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