Recently, we had a client call about her dog who had bitten someone. She was very upset and worried and was trying to find ways to prevent this from happening again. The situation was the dog had been sitting quietly on a patio under the table while the owner had coffee with her friend. Someone had come up and bent over to pet the dog but unfortunately was bit instead. How could this incident been prevented. Well, let’s look at this from the dog’s point of view. What would you do if you were napping and a stranger suddenly appeared and thrust their hand into your face? You may want to bite them too!
We need to learn how to safely and respectfully approach dogs to prevent these episodes from occurring. There are appropriate and inappropriate was to approach and greet dogs. Saying hello and petting the dogs you see out in public is great and most dogs and owners both enjoy it. However, you need to keep good human-to-dog manners in mind. Most people realize that you should not randomly approach an unfamiliar dog. First of all, don’t just rush up to a dog to pet him. It is best to approach slowly and watch the dog for body language signaling signs of fear. Dogs can be wary of strangers, which is not surprising as you probably would be a bit worried if some stranger rushed up to you out of the blue.
You should always ask the owner for permission to approach their dog and make sure you teach your children to do the same. Then, the proper way to greet a dog is to turn your body sideways with no eye to eye contact. Do not reach for the dog but rather allow the dog to take a few steps towards you and smell you. Stay calm, pet the dog gently and avoid getting them too excited. If the dog is showing any signs of fear, discomfort or tension, avoid petting him. Instead, just admire him from nearby.
While many people routinely greet dogs inappropriately and many dogs put up with this socially inappropriate behaviour, if you stop and think about it, correct greetings are common sense. Not every dog wants to be petted and hugged and we need to allow them to have the choice in the matter.
Some dogs need more space than others. This does not mean that they are “bad” dogs. It may be because they are very fearful, have had a bad experience with another dog or people, or just don’t want to say “Hi” to everyone. Some dogs may be in training or may have health issues.
There is a “Yellow Dog” campaign which is intended to allow owners to let people know not to approach their dog. A yellow ribbon tied on a dog’s leash says that “my dog needs space” , so kindly respect it. Some dogs are timid in public so the yellow ribbon is a warning to stay back and let the owner work on the timidity at a measured pace. If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on the leash please do not approach this dog. Pleas maintain distance or give this dog and his/her person time to move out of your way.
We should be respectful of dogs instead of assuming they should be friendly and polite even when we humans are not.