As house sitters we’re often keen to demonstrate our love of animals as soon as we arrive at an assignment. We want to put the home owners at ease by showing an instant bond with the pets we’ll be caring for in their absence.
But, are we sometimes over zealous during this first meeting?
We asked Gregg Flowers, a Florida-based dog trainer about the best and most effective way to meet a new dog for the first time in their own home.
Many people, especially children, get bitten every day and “the greeting” is possibly the most likely circumstance for an “iffy” dog to snap.
It’s important for us dog lovers and house sitters not to allow our zeal to make a new friend get us into trouble because we rushed the encounter. So, be patient and take it slowly.
A good rule of thumb when greeting an unfamiliar dog is – no talking, no touching and no eye contact.
Body language is everything
Never rush at a dog with a lot of chatter and frenetic energy upon greeting it. When you meet a dog for the first time, body language is everything – so is your calm energy.
When dealing with dogs, set aside your attachment to human language and customs. This is HIS language and if you want to make his acquaintance in a favorable way that appeals to him, these tips can really help.
Communicate in a way the dog understands
If the dog is with his owner, ask if it’s okay to say hello. Some dogs just don’t like people, and you might save yourself the unpleasantness of dodging teeth by employing the courtesy of simply asking first.
Either way, with or without an owner, when you first greet a dog, keep your breathing easy and relaxed.
Do NOT bend over him (standing over a dog is a dominant posture). Remember even a so-called “short” person is taller than a big dog. Allow him to come to you as you squat without talking to, looking at or touching him.
This body language says, “I’m not a threat”
Looking directly in the face of a dog may be wrongly interpreted as a warning. Remember, he doesn’t know you. One reason small children often get bitten by a dog, is because they are right on eye level with Rover.
Do not inadvertently show your teeth (as in a smile). A smile to us means ‘friend’, however, showing teeth in dog language says, ‘back off’. Smile after you consummate the greeting process. For a nervous dog your smile might be interpreted as a growl.
When you approach the dog, don’t do it head on, but rather turn to your side and squat before you get to him. Allow him to close the gap to come and sniff you.
Rescue dogs can be particularly nervous and may need for time to get to know you. Giving them space to do this in their time really helps. You could potentially be seen as a threat, so take it calm and take it easy.
How do I smell?
Extend the back of your wrist, and when the dog begins to smell you, do not say anything, don’t look at him and don’t pet him. We have plenty of “scent” on the back of our wrist, and an open hand may be misinterpreted by some dogs.
Let him get all the information he needs about you, through sniffing.
After that, you can slowly move your hand under his chin (NOT over his body. That way he can see where your hand is going.)
Don’t reach over a dog to pet him on the top of the head or on his back until you can tell that he enjoys being petted there. Next, pet him gently on the chest or on the side of the face.
When you do ultimately talk to the dog, speak in a monotone, friendly voice and a lower register. Do NOT speak in a high pitched, manic, voice.
Many adults today are afraid of dogs because no grown-up taught them as children the proper way to greet a dog. The result was a bad experience that has stayed with them into their adult life.
The above is all good information for meeting any dog and important counsel to pass on to our little ones. Let’s help make sure they don’t have an experience that perpetuates a fear of dogs in the future.
If you show can show pet owners that you are calm, in control and respectful of their pets, you’ll quickly win their hearts and reassure them that they’ve picked the best people to look after their pets!