How to Approach a Strange Dog

This is an important topic; too many times incidents can be avoided. You can never tell which dog is friendly or which dog may not want to be approached. Size and breed don't matter when you approach a dog you don't know. Many bites happen with small dogs or breeds known to be laid back and friendly.

My last two dogs were a Rottweiler, Porkchop, and a Shep/Akita mix, Max. They were large pups who could be intimidating, yet children still ran up to them. My dogs were very sweet and tolerant of people, especially children. Since my pups were breeds that people think of as "mean," it was my responsibility to change their opinion!! I made it a mission to educate people, children, and their parents, on how to safely approach ANY dog! The following tips will be of help:

•    Make sure the child knows that he must ALWAYS ask "May I pet your dog?"

Most people approach a dog head on, bend over the dog, and reach for the head. Every one of these actions is perceived by the dog as a threat and a challenge. If you really want to be friends with the dog:

•    Since your dog is in training, make sure your dog is sitting calmly by your side before you allow anyone to pet him.

•    If your dog is sitting calmly, give instructions for the approach to your dog. The child/person should turn slightly away from the dog. He may then reach out his hand for the dog to sniff. Then he may pet the dog on the chest or back.

•    Approach from the side turned slightly away. Don't make direct eye contact, look above her head.

•    If your dog keeps getting up, thank the child/person for their help and explain that your dog is not yet ready to be touched by people he doesn't know.

    Hold out your hand for a sniff, offering a treat is always nice.

    Kneel next to the dog, again facing away, maybe in the same direction.

•    Slowly reach out to scratch the chest. I have yet to meet a dog who doesn't like a good chest scratch. Don't overdo it. Walk away and let the dog come to you for more petting and scratching.

If it feel like a dog is hesitant, I don't try to touch him. Walk away, sit down in a chair and offer a treat. When the dog is ready, he'll come over to you.

Some dogs need a little time before they want just anyone to touch them. How would you feel if some stranger came over and gave you a big hug or started to touch you? •   

The handler should then give the child a treat for the dog. The treat should be given in an open palm like you would feed a horse. This is to prevent an excited dog from taking more than the offered treat!! NEVER try to pet any dog that is loose. If you don't see a person with the dog, assume the worst and walk away.

Just because a dog is small, or a breed known for their sweet disposition, does not necessarily mean that it is all right to go up and pet this dog. There are exceptions to every rule. Small dogs are just as likely to bite, if not more so, as big dogs are. Small dog bites can be very serious, requiring a trip to the Doctor and stitches. A little common sense and respect will go a long way to making friends with dogs you don't know.

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