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Meet and greet the right way

February 25th 2019

Author: Sarah Butler

Annually, more than 100,000 Australians are victims of dog attacks or harassment. Could not knowing how to approach a dog be a contributing factor?

When you find yourself face to face with a cute dog, it can often be hard to resist running up to them and enveloping them in a hug. While you may do this with your dog at home – a dog who knows you, it’s not safe nor appropriate to do this to dogs you don’t know, or who don’t know you.

Dogs can be wary of strangers, especially those who encroach on their personal space. Therefore, if you rush into the meet and greet session expecting them to adore the attention immediately, you may fnd yourself in a dangerous situation. The best way to approach a dog is in the same way you would approach a strange human – without getting into their space, touching them, or showing too much affection.

Don’t rush
Many children and even adults don’t realise that it can be terrifying for a dog when someone rushes up to them. The dog may get a fright, fnd themselves in an uncomfortable situation, and react as a result. To give the dog the best chance of meeting you safely, approach them at a slow pace. Let them see you and know you’re not a risk to them or their space.

Ask first
If you’re out in public and see someone with a dog, don’t assume the dog is stranger friendly. If you want to pat it, ask the owner if it’s okay. Not every dog is comfortable with a lot of attention.

Personal space
Just as you wouldn’t like a stranger getting close to you on your first interaction, avoid doing the same with a strange dog. What’s more, rather than approach them with your hand out, let them come to you. Walk up slowly, crouch down, then wait.

Pat properly
Children and even some adults like to rough and tumble with their dogs at home – giving them cuddles and pats. While a strange dog might like this attention from their owner, they may not appreciate it from a stranger – at least not right away. Rather than run up to hug a dog, pat them nicely and only when permitted to do so.

Know the signs
Not everyone is familiar with the signs dogs show to let them know they’re not comfortable. However, they can be crucial.
• Avoiding eye contact, licking their lips, frequent yawning – the dog may be anxious or unsettled.
• Teeth baring, growling, snapping – the dog may be ready to bite.
• Rigid body, unwilling to move, frozen in place – uneasy, uncertain.
• Raised fur – uncomfortable or unsure with something happening around them.

Thirty-eight percent of Australian households have a dog, which may contribute to the
complacency of how some people act around strange dogs. If you do wish to approach an
unfamiliar dog, do so with caution and the knowledge that this new situation may not be a comfortable one right away.