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The Barking Blog

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Should I Properly Introduce Myself to an Unfamiliar Dog?

pretty-girl-dog.jpgI've often had clients ask me how they should introduce themselves to a friend's dog. It's important to keep in mind that how you handle an introduction to a new dog sets the tone for the relationship you're going to have with that animal. While you want to make sure you always exhibit calm, assertive energy, that isn't always easy to achieve when you have a large, unfamiliar dog pushes his way toward you to "check you out". However, it's precisely this time when your actions will speak volumes to that animal.

Before you walk into an environment to meet a new dog, you want to really breathe. Controlled breathing will slow your heart rate and in turn keep your adrenaline in check. Remember adrenaline is a chemical and it's one dogs can smell. Letting a new dog sense you're nervous is never helpful so it's imperative to control your heart rate before any introductions are made.

When you walk into the home, allow the dog to come up and sniff you. Some dogs will be pushier than others, some will bark and run from you, others will simply walk up, sniff and quietly walk away.  Keep in mind that  it is normal for animals to sniff you. Do not push them away or back away from them. Do not talk to them or touch them. Do not give them your hands to sniff. Simply allow them to get to know you in a way that they are comfortable with - by sniffing. They need to understand who and what you are. By sniffing, they get your "resume".

At this stage, don't attempt to pet or put your hands near the dog.  Only when the dog is displaying calm energy should you attempt to pet them. You want to always pet on the sides of the body or under the chin, never on the head. If you try to pet or move toward an anxious dog, you are simply rewarding unwanted behavior and can make the pet react negatively. You want to simply ignore the dog (no talk, no touch, no eye contact) until they display calm, relaxed energy. Then you will know it's time to engage them. If the dog reacts in an unwanted way after you've begun to pet him, go back to "no talk, no touch, no eye contact", until again calm, relaxed behavior is exhibited by the animal.

By following the instructions above, you display
leadership before friendship. This speaks volumes to a new dog who is trying to quickly ascertain where you fit into their pack. If the dog has alpha tendencies and is in an environment where confusion of pack order is prevalent, you may find yourself staying in leadership mode the entire time you are around the pup. This is perfectly acceptable and will  help your visit go much smoother. 

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