Did you know that when you say hi to a dog, you’re more than likely scaring the heck out of it?
Yes, it’s true and I’m on a lifelong campaign to enlighten my fellow humans.
Here’s a polite human-to-human greeting: Two people walk to each other and meet face to face. They shake hands or make some sort of physical touch while making eye contact. They speak to each other.
Here’s some interesting facts about dogs you should know.
Head-on encounters generally means two dogs are threatening or challenging each other. Locked eye contact means, “the fight is on!” Physical touch is inappropriate unless it’s a nose buried in a butt. A dog that touches its head or mouth to the top or face of another dog’s head is making a dominant gesture. Vocalizations are not part of a dog’s greeting.
So when you walk straight toward a dog head-on, the dog sees you as confronting it. When you lock eye contact, the dog sees you threatening it. When you reach out to pet its head, the dog sees you trying to dominate it. Connect the dots. You’re freaking that dog out!
How do dogs introduce themselves in a polite manner?
They begin sending signals to each other from far distances away. If the signals are friendly, they may move closer together, traveling in half-circles to avoid head-on confrontations and making sure not to lock eyes.
If all the signals being sent between the dogs are friendly, they’ll move in for a proper sniff of one another’s rear-ends. Now they’ve been formally and politely introduced.
Dogs do grow accustomed to a human’s greeting and become very comfortable with greeting their owners and even other well-established canine friends in the human fashion.
However, we should not assume that a dog we do not know will accept our threatening and socially-unacceptable greeting.
Give new dogs the opportunity to sniff your pant leg before you overload them with “oohs” and “good boys” and lots of excited patting and eye contact.
It’s the polite thing to do.