How to greet an unknown dog
¿Aren't dogs man's best friends? ¿Then why don't they sometimes like to be greeted in the street? Leaving aside dogs that have specific problems with humans, the way in which we approach and greet dogs is essential to determining their response and acceptance.
When we find an acquaintance in the street, we usually approach them directly, looking at their face, smiling and extending hands, and we often complete the ritual with hugs and kisses on the cheeks. The majority of this greeting ritual is too invasive for dogs. ¿So which is the correct way to approach them?
We should approach the dog with a relaxed attitude, with no rush, allowing them to take their time to see that we are approaching and to assimilate the situation. Always avoid a frontal, direct or rear approach, since the dog will not be able to see us. Ideally, we should approach laterally, looking at one of the sides of the dog and avoiding staring into the eyes of the animal. The approach must finish before entering into the personal space of the dog. Each individual, whether a person or a dog, has a personal space where it only accepts the presence of some well-known individuals. If the proximity with a stranger is annoying, the animals will try to move away until that person is outside its personal space. Do not lean over dogs, something we often do given their size.
Letting dogs sniff you before touching them is a good strategy; however, when we extend our hand towards the snout of the dog, we are again invading its personal space. Therefore, it is preferable to stop at a certain distance from the dog and wait until it decides whether to approach or not, and its own path. This is the moment when we can ask the owner if we can stroke the dog and check whether the animal accepts our approach or not. If you notice that the dog seems to be frightened or nervous, it is better not to try to stroke it; on the contrary, if the dog approaches you in a relaxed attitude and seeking close contact, it is then that we can enjoy a good stroking session, avoiding any bothersome manipulation at all times. Many dogs don't like being hugged, kissed on the face, or to receive abrupt strokes. Keeping all these guidelines is especially important when the dog is tied up, and even more so if it is tied up outside a shop and waiting for its owner.
Greeting and hugging dogs is a very pleasant experience for most people; knowing when such experience is also pleasant for the dog is very important as well. Physical contact with unknown persons is an unpleasant experience for many dogs; therefore, it is essential to learn how to read the animal's signals and respect them.