You know your dog. You know the familiar smell of their paws, which spot on their tummy they love to be scratched and the first thing your dog is going to do when she or he wakes up in the morning. Our love for our own dogs can make us too trusting of other dogs. We may sprint over to any dog we see walking down the street and immediately start petting them. If we have children, this behavior may be passed down and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s critical to learn the proper way to approach an unfamiliar dog. We will break it down so that you can still greet dogs without putting yourself at risk.

Photo Courtesy of jonjd2
Ask Permission
Never walk toward, let alone run to an unfamiliar dog and start touching them. If someone did that to you, I guarantee you would not be happy. Treat this dog with the same respect. First, ask permission from the owner if you can pet their dog. Just as you know best how your dog will react in certain circumstances, this owner knows whether or not their dog will appreciate a stranger petting them, and what spot on their dog is best not to touch.
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Sniff and See
Hold your hand out to the dog so that he or she can sniff you and get to know you and your scent. Remember, dogs use their noses to gain the most information. Bypassing this important step would be a faux-pas in the canine world. Do not look the dog directly in the eyes as that can be seen as a challenge. If the dog looks relaxed with their mouth open and their tail wagging, signs are the dog is friendly and would not mind gentle petting. If the dog appears tense, the tail is not wagging, the ears are laid back and the mouth is closed or in a snarl, this dog may be scared, so leave it alone.
The Right Touch
Adults generally understand proper pressure for touching animals. Children however, occasionally struggle with this concept, especially when it is an adorable furry creature that resembles the stuffed animal they squeeze at night when they sleep. Teach your child how to gently stroke from head to tail. Stay away from the ears, the face, the paws, and the dog’s hindquarters, including the tail. Children have a tendency to tug on tails which animals do not appreciate.

Dog to Dog

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If you are walking your dog and you approach an unfamiliar dog, do your best to keep them separate. Even if your dog is friendly, the other dog might not be. Some dogs love people but not other canines. Keep the dogs separate until you know the other dog, in order to avoid unnecessary scuffles.
Some dogs love attention and will play with anything that moves.  Sometimes it can be easy to tell when a dog wants attention and when they do not, but to be safe, you should never assume. Always ask the owner first and teach your children to follow suit.