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Things to Know About Approaching a Strange Dog

Updated on March 27, 2013
Approach Strange Dogs With Care!
Approach Strange Dogs With Care!


Whether you're approaching a strange dog because it's loose on the highway to help it, or whether you're greeting a friend's new pet, the following tips will help you to correctly introduce yourself to a dog you do not know.

Dog behavior is not the same as human behavior. Dogs read body language long well in advance of listening to words, so you'll want to talk "dog" to the dog with your body language. When, from the dog's point of view, you approach in a non-threatening manner, you are doing the dog a favor, especially if he has aggression or self-confidence issues. You can become a successful "human encounter" within the dog's memory bank!

Avoid Direct Eye Contact

When you approach an unknown dog, avoid making direct eye contact. Dogs tend to interpret direct eye contact as a challenge. While dogs can be trained to accept direct eye contact, and while this is desirable in competition obedience training, direct eye contact is often interpreted by an untrained dog as a threat.

Get Low

To appear less intimidating, sit, squat, or get down upon your knees. The smaller a dog is, the more important it is for his handler to reduce his size. By appearing smaller to the dog, you also appear to be less of a threat.

Turn Sideways

Upon lowering yourself to the dog's level, turn your body sideways. You have now communicated to the dog (in dog language) that you are NOT a threat, (no eye contact), and that you are not nearly as big as he first thought you to be. By presenting him with your side, (as dogs do when making a new acquaintance) you communicate your lack of threat. Facing a dog full front challenges him, (as does direct eye contact). When you down low and sideways, you communicate no threat, and can readily put out a hand for the dog to sniff.

Pet Down Low

After the dog has thoroughly sniffed your hand, pet his chest, first. Everyone's first instinct is to pet the dog over the top of his head and shoulders, but many dogs are uncomfortable with this and will duck or back away from strangers who do so. In dog language, putting yourself over his head and shoulders announces your dominance over him. Many dogs are leery of allowing a total stranger to establish dominance over them. You will have more success if you first pet the dog's chest,before moving up to his shoulders and sides. Pet his head last of all.

Speak Softly

As you're petting, speak softly and soothingly to the dog. If you know his name, use it, and tell him things he's likely to already be familiar with hearing such as, "Good boy," or, "Good girl."

Final Thoughts

Something else to remember when making friends with an unknown dog, is to simply be there, without challenging the dog in any way. Wait for the dog to come to you. Use this strategy when visiting friends. Dogs often prefer to observe a stranger at first, before sniffing them and finally coming closer in. When a dog does finally approach, offer your hand slowly, and if the dog permits it, gently scratch its chest. Oftentimes, when you then drop your hand, the dog will surprise you by then making the next move.


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    • profile image

      haydon 6 years ago

      dude what ever

    • profile image

      cody 6 years ago

      hi my name is cody

    • ROBERTHEWETTSR profile image

      rOBERT hEWETT SR. 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Very good advice Brett. Thanks for following me on Hubpages. Robert

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      Gail ... that does work with stray dogs that are used to being pelted with rocks ... I remember as a child, when more dogs ran loose, doing that very thing when strange dogs would approach too quickly. With this hub, I was thinking more of how to have a successful encounter when meeting a a new dog out in public (leashed) or in someone's home ... one of my dogs is was undersocialized as a puppy and is reactionary, and just last night, she met a stranger in my home, and I was so grateful for his good doggie manners because it helped her have a successful new experience!

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 6 years ago from Mason City

      It would be scary to face a strange dog that is loose. It would be a good idea to act if your going to throw a rock, then the dog might back off.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      You are welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

    • TENKAY profile image

      TENKAY 6 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you. This is very informative. I know about the direct stare intimidation but the rest are new to me.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      hoteltravel ... bless your heart! You should try to make friends with a few, they are one of the delights of my life! Thanks for reading my hub, and for commenting!

    • hoteltravel profile image

      hoteltravel 6 years ago from Thailand

      Animals, including dogs are a mystery to me. I usually avoid encounters, but am amazed how others manage to earn their trust. Thanks for the tips. May be one day I will muster courage to approach them. Voting up and useful.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      Gail, I would at least turn sideways ... dogs are so unbelievably body language oriented compared to humans, who are verbal. Then, to totally contradict everything else I have said, it can also be useful to step forward and act as if to pick up a rock and move your arm back as if to throw it ... dogs that are perpetual strays often recognize this motion (sadly) and it can be useful to you in protecting yourself. While I would hate to see anyone throw a rock at a poor stray dog, and as much as I love dogs ... human beings, made in the image of God, are of infinitely greater value. I hope you will never be placed in such a situation!

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 6 years ago from Mason City

      Your welcome, I was wondering if you run into a stray dog and he isn't friendly, would it be best to make sure that you face the dog and never turn you back to it. If you turn your back the dog will come after you and attack you? Making no direct eye contact with the dog sounds like a good idea.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      Gail, thank you so much for taking the time to both read and comment!!!

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      wordmasher ... never too late. And there are still so many nuances to their language that we'll probably never really understand it all! Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • wordmasher profile image

      wordmasher 6 years ago from USA

      What an education! Have always held the view that learning the specialized language/vocabulary of any endeavor is job #1 for success. I now realize I've failed to do that in dealing with dogs--strange dogs in paticulair. I guess I've been speaking zebra or raccoon half the time instead of dog talk. Never too late to start getting it right, huh?

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 6 years ago from Mason City

      Great advice for approaching dogs. I voted up.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      Mary, thank you for taking the time to read my hub, and to comment!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

      As a dog lover, I'm always interested in dog behavior. People don't give dogs enough credit for their inteligence, and instincts. This is good advice.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 6 years ago from US

      Richard, usually a dog that is jumping up at you because he is excited simply hasn't been taught to "sit politely for petting" by his owner. The dog wants attention and interaction, so the best way to stop it (without training the dog) is to simply fold your arms across your chest, avert your eyes from the dog, and turn away. This takes away much of his incentive to interact. If it is your dog, put him on a leash and teach him the way to get what he wants is to sit ... he gets cookies and petting as a reward when he is sitting, but ignored with the body language mentioned above, otherwise. It won't take long! Thanks for your comment on my hub!

    • profile image

      richardkruse 6 years ago

      Nice hub, good advice.

      But, what about a dog that is full of energy, jumping up at you because he is so excited etc.?

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      thanks for the advice.. I remember this dominion pincher had his back leg hurt. I felt so sorry for him. I sat down beside of him on the grass and petted him and spoke softly to him next thing I knew we were best friends. Whenever I walked down the road after that I felt safe he wouldn't let another dog near me.. LOl .. loved that dog.. Love your hub.


    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Great much needed advice.I am so "dog loving" I tend to forget not all dogs love humans, most do, but good advice and thanks.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      Great advise for approaching a dog. I was bit by a doberman when a child and so have had to overcome fear when around big dogs. They seem to understand though at least the ones I have encountered


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