Approaching a Dog Safely: 3 Must-Take Steps

We know, you are a dog person and dogs love you. You have had them all your life and know how to play with them, keep them under control, and the right spot to scratch. Not every dog is the dog you grew up with and not all dogs are friendly. Whether be to an unfortunate upbringing, lack of training, or a whole onslaught of other reasons, there are dogs in this world that will snarl, snap, and even bite.

No matter how cute the dog you would like to greet is, you should exercise caution. By following the steps below you will put yourself in the safest situation possible. Sure, it may seem a little over the top when most dogs are super friendly, but it beats not having an approach and running into the wrong pooch.


Step 1: Ask


Before you even come close to the dog, communicate with the dog’s owner. A simple courtesy such as “May I pet your dog?” or “Can I say ‘hi’ to your dog?” goes a very long way. If there are any behavioral issues or specific actions that need to be taken, the owner will now be able to communicate that with you.

This also offers protection in the instances when the dog is a service animal, service animal in training, and just a regular pet in training. One of the most frequent behaviors we see in dogs is jumping and getting overly excited. If the owner is working with the dog to react appropriately to others, they will have the time to follow protocol when you ask.

Even if the dog is the cutest dog you have ever seen in your life and you just have to pet her, ask. The cutest dogs have just as many behavioral issues as the less cute ones. The last thing you need is that little fur ball biting your finger!

Step 2: Approach Carefully But Confidently from the Front


The importance of this one cannot be over stressed. Dogs read body language and respond accordingly. People who are afraid of dogs almost always let it show through their body language, and those are the people who the dogs take advantage of. Dogs don’t like the energy those fearful individuals are putting out and the dogs bark, lunge, jump, and do other undesirable actions.

You should be confident when approaching a dog, but with respect. It is not a challenge, nor is a a contest to see who is bigger and tougher. It is simply being firm and letting the dog know that he is to respect you and that you respect him. Stand with good posture, stay tall, but be nice and loose, being too stiff will also send the wrong signals.

>>>Read: Successful Dog Training: It’s Not What You Say<<<

The final caveat with step 2 is that you need to approach from the front. Even the best, sweetest dogs can get startled if you approach them where they do not see you. If you come up from behind and a dog and just start petting it, his primal instincts will potentially kick in and he could be latched onto that hand before he even knows what he is doing. It goes back to respecting the dog and having a mutual meeting. Which leads us to…

Step 3: The 90/10 Rule


You have gotten permission to approach, are standing tall and confident, and you approach the dog from the front. The last thing you must do is allow the dog to come to you. You can go 90% of the way there, but let the dog make up the last 10%. This prevents any last minute discomfort or reactions.

Additionally, a dog that is approaching you is telling you that she is comfortable and ready to interact. You set the tone by coming in but that last 10% says, “Hey, if you don’t like me you can go do your thing.” Always keep in mind that this is a mutual interaction and that you don’t know the dog.

While you are waiting for the dog to come to you, make note of how she is reacting. If she starts backing away, snarling, or showing any other negative signs, let the dog be and move on. If the tail is wagging, the tongue comes out, and the dog looks happy, start having fun with that pooch!

>>>Read Next: What’s the Best Way to Communicate with My Dog?<<<


These three steps are very simple to do and can be the difference between a safe interaction where both you and the dog feel comfortable and an unfortunate bite or attack. These steps should be taught to all members of your family, especially children,

Children are smaller and are frequently at eye level with dogs. This means that they are looking eye to eye, which can be seen as a threat to dogs. Not to mention, the smaller stature of children increases the likelihood of injury if a dog is not in a calm state when approached.

What makes matters even worse is that children are the ones that love to touch, poke, and knock into things. They don’t stop and think as much as adults do so it is imperative that they are taught from a young age how to approach a dog. With one or two quick lessons, you, your children, and whoever else you share these 3 steps with will be well on your way to more safe interactions with dogs!

What do you think of our steps? We want to know! Leave a comment below!

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