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How to Approach a Dog You Don't Know

When you're a pet parent, it's likely you will interact with a lot of other dogs. It can be fun for your dog to have a chance to engage with other dogs. But for you it may be harder to interact with a new dog. You can't walk up and start smelling the dog, so how do you introduce yourself to a new dog without scaring or intimidating her?

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It's much harder when your dog isn't with you to break the ice, but there are a few things you should definitely do to help ensure a friendly and safe interaction with a foreign dog:

Don't approach if you can't see the dog's eyes

There's no better way to get on a dog's bad side than to start on her wrong side. As the Daily Puppy notes, if you come at a dog from behind, you'll likely startle her. This will make the dog defensive and potentially aggressive. it's likely you will issue completely is to simply approach from the front or side.

Touching or approaching a dog who's sleeping, eating or distracted can result in a similarly bad reaction. Many dogs are trained not to be aggressive while eating, but if you are approaching a dog you don't know, this could be the worst time to approach.

Be friendly and cautious

As the World Pet Association's PetSource.org recommends, you can tell a lot about what kind of dog you're dealing with from her body language. A wagging tail, sniffing nose and quick approach are all good signs, although they don't necessarily point to a friendly dog. Friendly dogs can appear shy just as dogs who approach you and seem friendly may actually be aggressive. Dogs who are friendly and comfortable with people should do most of the work when meeting you, including lots of sniffing.

If you would like to meet a dog, approach her very slowly, quietly announce your presence with a sound and let her react to you. Watch out for negative body language signs like barking, flat ears or the dog showing his teeth. If this happens, be still and then slowly walk away. Stay calm and speak softly. It may be helpful to squat down near the dog to allow him to sniff you, but avoid staring or making strong eye contact.  
In many cases, dogs won't be aggressive when you meet them. It's more likely that they'll be hesitant or shy. Once you have met them and you both feel more comfortable, try to find a good spot to scratch or rub. Dogs will really appreciate the courtesy.

The best thing to do before approaching any dog, whether at a party or the park, is to talk to the pet parent. Pet parents will know how to best introduce their dog to avoid fear and unwanted jumping.

Think about others with your own dog

Remember that others may not feel comfortable approaching your own dog while you're out for a walk. Try to accommodate other people's fear. Keep your dog away from strange people. Cesar's Way notes there is a risk your dog may cause emotional stress to a stranger who might be afraid of dogs, in addition to the risk strangers could harm your dog. Therefore, it's also smart to tell other people.
It's also smart to tell other people how to approach your dog. Some people are unaware of the best practices when it comes to touching or meeting a dog. If your dog reacts aggressively or gets scared, let other people know before they go to pet your pup.

Meeting a new dog can be scary because you don't always know what to expect. If you stay smart, take it easy and show the dog respect, you may both be happy with the outcome.