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Hey guys,

I was at the pet store yesterday, and I saw a woman approach a dog to pet him. She approached him head on, and he became very skittish. This got me thinking, what is the appropriate way to approach a dog you've never met, to pet them (after asking the owners)?

I have horses, and when you're greeting any horse, the most respectful way to greet them is to have one hand petting their neck while your other hand is open for sniffing by their nose. You shouldn't generally just go up to a horse and put your hands all over their faces. Is this the same with dogs?
 

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Depends on the dog.

For Mia, things work infinitely better if you just don't approach at all. Just kneel a few feet away and in a couple minutes she'll likely come up to sniff you then wander off. People that give her that space at an initial meeting and don't force interaction will get a lot further than someone who tries to pat her right away.

Summer doesn't care as long as you pet her. You could (and strangers have) walk up and scoop her straight into your arms and she would just start wagging her tail and kissing you and she would enjoy every minute of it.

I typically don't go up to dogs I don't know. I like dogs a lot but never have really understood the whole 'I must pet everyones' dogs!' thing. I never ask to pet dogs I don't know. If I do meet a new dog, I let them come up to me first. If they instigate interaction then I will usually hold out a palm and let them sniff and go from there. If they don't instigate anything, I wouldn't try to pet them.
 

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My son and his girlfriend recently got a second dog - a long-haired dapple miniature dachshund. She is adorable and several people have gotten nipped because they insisted on swooping down on her and trying to pet her or, worse, to pick her up.

They have her in a class with other dogs that have shown some human aggression (and most of them are not 8-pound dogs) but, after meeting her, I believe it is my sons friends who need training. It's best (and actually works fabulously) to just let her approach you at her own pace. Better still if you're sitting on the floor, rather than towering over her.

But Laurelin is right - every dog is a little different. You wouldn't have to worry about how to approach Molly. Given the opportunity, she will aproach you - usually very quickly and not too delicately - sit on you feet and lean on you. That seems to be a lab thing.

Esther is more reserved and will evaluate you from a distance before making a decision about your character.

I generally treat dogs I don't know as if they are service dogs - to be admired at a distance but not man-handled in any way.
 

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I typically do not go up to dogs I do not know. If someone asks to pet Jaxx I suggest they kneel down and get on his level a little more so he doesn't feel like a giant is approaching him. It seems to work best with him.
I used to have trouble with the neighborhood kids swooping down and picking Jaxx up before I could say no but then I started telling them he would play with them more if they sat on the ground with him. This way if they hold him I do not have to fear them dropping him and he does play with them more if they get down on the ground.
Most adults I have ran into do not try to pick Jaxx up but if he doesn't know someone he runs up to them and sniffs and then runs back to me and rinse and repeat. After he gets to know someone he will stand and play with them but if he doesn't know them it takes him a while to warm up to them.
 

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Hey guys,

I was at the pet store yesterday, and I saw a woman approach a dog to pet him. She approached him head on, and he became very skittish. This got me thinking, what is the appropriate way to approach a dog you've never met, to pet them (after asking the owners)?

I have horses, and when you're greeting any horse, the most respectful way to greet them is to have one hand petting their neck while your other hand is open for sniffing by their nose. You shouldn't generally just go up to a horse and put your hands all over their faces. Is this the same with dogs?

It sounds similar.

I approach/interact from the side (curving if possible), get down on their level (assuming they are friendly and just maybe nervous or a little uncertain since they don't know me/my scent), open my hand palm up (it's said palm down looks too much like a talon reaching down over them - not sure how true that is, but I figure why take the chance), and my other hand stroke slowly on the 'corner' where his side curves into his back (so he doesn't think I'm trying to reach under him).

I don't make much direct eye contact, look then sorta look away (kinda like I'm looking at his body). If the dog takes an interest in sniffing me, I stay still and let him sniff (not a sign of fear, but a sign of "I'm letting you investigate me"). After a little bit, I'll start stroking and maybe talk softly while he's sniffing and make a little more eye contact since we're now in each other's space. If the owner says it's okay, I'll give a small treat if I have one (and I usually have some dried up one or stale bread ball in a pocket). If the owner has some I'll ask to give him one of those instead. I offer the treat from an open hand held out in front of him so he goes to investigate it if he wants.
 

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I don't approach dogs I don't know. For all I know, the dog is very reactive and I will cause a huge hassle for the poor owner by approaching the dog. Now, if a dog shows interest in me, then I will approach slowly, with my shoulders to the side, not looking at their face, let them sniff me, then put my hand out to be sniffed and then I'll try a light pat on the side of the neck or under the chin. Any sign of stress, whale eyes, yawning, presenting the side, lip licking and I back right off and ignore them.

I have taught all my nieces and nephews this, and I enforce it ruthlessly. Punishment is severe if I catch one of them hassling a strange dog. I will not, on my watch, have a dog put down for being scared by a rude kid.
 

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I have taught all my nieces and nephews this, and I enforce it ruthlessly. Punishment is severe if I catch one of them hassling a strange dog. I will not, on my watch, have a dog put down for being scared by a rude kid.
I wish you would come teach the kids around here...

There are distinct disadvantages to having a small white fluff ball dog...
 

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I feel like this is a subject more people should be educated on. I think so many people think it's okay to just walk up to a dog, lean over it, make high pitched "happy noises" and go to rubbing it all over.

People around me don't ask to pet my dogs often, hardly ever in fact (most people where I live are scared of pittbulls and I have one, and a mutt) but when they do I always instruct them on what to do before they come over.
 

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Thanks for all the reply's everyone! I don't pet strange dogs often, but this is very helpful if I do! It makes plenty of sense to have the dog approach you. My dog Kiko is very people oriented and needs to make sure everyone in the room rubs her belly before she can leave, but I know plenty of dogs who prefer a few meet and greets before being pet.
 

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It really depends on the dog. Generally I dont approach a dog, I allow them to approach me. I'll typically kneel down a few steps away and continue my conversation with the owner, eye contact with the owner basically ignoring the dog. Most of the time the dog will come over for a sniff and then either go right back to the owner or stick around to allow petting. Bigger dogs are still given the same opportunity to decide if they want contact with me, Im just not as likely to kneel down when it'll put me at eye level with them. Of course there's always that dog that decides you're the greatest thing, bolts right over, sits on your feet and leans up against you hard enough to knock you off balance...those I just laugh and rub their ears :p
 

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Rarely do I pet people's dogs. But, if I want too, I usually (and obviously) ask the owner first, and then get down on the dog's level, not beside the dog, but a reasonable distance away. I don't say anything to the dog (more often than not, I'm still talking to the owner) and just let the dog come up to me and sniff me and get use to me while I still don't really acknowledge them. And that's really what I do. I don't reach out to pet them or anything. Usually them coming up to me and sniffing is usually enough interaction for me. Then I stand up. This usually works really well with skittish dogs. After I stand up, the dog seems to gravitate towards me and the owners always get so happy like, "OMG! She's actually wanting to be around someone!" or something along the lines.

But, if they are a bit of an more social butterfly, I will probably give them a soft pat on the chest and stand up again. :)
 

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We were at a pet expo last weekend. There was a dog walking toward me, just a few feet away. I went to kneel and the owner tells me "you shouldn't approach a dog like that, especially mine who is fearful of humans". Hello, wtf are you doing bringing your dog into a crowded event like a pet expo, where there are pets and humans?
 

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We were at a pet expo last weekend. There was a dog walking toward me, just a few feet away. I went to kneel and the owner tells me "you shouldn't approach a dog like that, especially mine who is fearful of humans". Hello, wtf are you doing bringing your dog into a crowded event like a pet expo, where there are pets and humans?
Whoa...
I went to the Pet Expo here earlier this year and it was a very crowded indoor event with people clapping and microphones blaring music and speeches...I wouldn't even DREAM of bringing a fearful pet to an event like that. Unreal.
 

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I agree with KBLover. When I approach a friendly dog, if it's a large dog, I'll look away from his eyes, I'll walk indirectly towards the dog, trying to alow him to come to me, if possible (I prefer to stand and call them to approach me), then, I'll reach palm up to scratch the jaw, and then whatever the dog seems to like... A very friendly dog might get a finger in the ear! or a scrach at the base of the tail.

For a smaller dog, I'll try to knee to avoid looming, with a similar approach as above.

I agree with RonE, I don't approach Pits, Goldens, or Labs ... I try to brace myself from being knocked over :)

One thing that I do by habit that has gotten me in trouble, once or twice, is that when an exuberant dog bounds to me, I'll blow in their face... I've never been bitten... but I have been told, "Don't do that... I don't like it!" and everyone was surprised. I 'apologize' - hands folded, eyes down - seems to work ... and all is forgiven. .... Usually, it pressing the licking button...
 

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I would say it depends. You always want to ask the owner if it's okay but a general rule is to let the dog come to you.
My own dog will just rush at you if you wanna pet him and he's a very friendly guy with people, he rarely does the whole calm approach unless I ask him to like when he's met babies or older people, so it doesn't really matter how you approach him, he'll still rush at you.
 

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Whoa...
I went to the Pet Expo here earlier this year and it was a very crowded indoor event with people clapping and microphones blaring music and speeches...I wouldn't even DREAM of bringing a fearful pet to an event like that. Unreal.
We went last year but about an hour before it ended; my sensitive dog was fine. Shorty Rossi & Hercules were there this year so we left our dogs home.
 

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I agree with RonE, I don't approach Pits, Goldens, or Labs ... I try to brace myself from being knocked over :)
I hear that - I remember when a really friendly Pit smelled the treats in my pocket. I suddenly got a very active nose sniffing me up and down and poking me and all that.

LOL I just blew in Wally's face (had to try it after reading your description) and he looked at me like "WTF, man?!"
 

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I have known a lot of dogs that would snap at you if you blew in their face. It is not something I would do with a strange dog.
Yeah, no way I would have done it to him but we antagonize each other like that. :)

I fully expect him to lay on the covers tonight...or on my feet. Again.
 
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