To a dog, first impressions matter. It makes the difference between friend or possible foe. Knowing how to approach a dog is a huge part of how a dog will interact with you.
One issue that we humans have is how we perceive dogs—we have a natural instinct to see them as super cute and want to cuddle up with them. This makes us want to quickly approach dogs, which can be frightening to them.
There is a safe way to approach a dog that is comfortable for both you and the dog.
Ask the owner’s permission before interacting with their dog. The owner knows best if the dog is comfortable with other people. Also, there’s a chance the owner may not want you to approach their dog.
After receiving the owner’s permission to greet their dog, don’t directly approach the dog. Initially, you want to pretend that you do not see the dog–this will allow him or her to approach you on their own accord. This is the most comfortable way for the dog to approach strangers. Use a similar tactic when initiating eye contact with dogs—though a sign of trust in the West, it isn’t that way in the world of dogs.
Make sure the dog’s body language remains calm. Once the pooch approaches you, let them sniff you. If the dog accepts you, you can pet them once or twice. If they request more petting, go on ahead. Try to refrain from hugging. If the dog turns away after the petting, it’s a sign they are not interested in being petted right now.
Make sure to keep calm and move carefully around dogs—be especially careful with blind and deaf dogs. They may be extra jumpy.
Remember these important tidbits when approaching dogs—they are their own personalities and have unique behaviors that vary depending on the dog or situation. One dog may be very excited to see you, while another may give you the cold shoulder.