Put your best paw forward!

Sep 19 2006

Learning the proper way to greet a dog is simple and very important. If more people perform these simple techniques, others will watch and learn and every dog will benefit. As humans, we communicate primarily through the use of our voices, although popular dating shows and talk shows have made us more aware of our extensive body language vocabulary! Dogs actually use body language as their primary source of communication, so it behooves us to learn exactly what we are communicating to them when we offer the standard ‘pat on the head’ greeting. To a dog, any dog, even your own dog, reaching over the top of the head is a dominant or challenging signal. To make matters worse, we are usually facing the dog and staring directly into his eyes when we reach to pet his head. This posturing is interpreted by the dog as very domineering and not at all the friendly gesture we are attempting to offer. If the dog is frightened, he may back away, snap, or growl. If the dog is used to being in control and accepts a dominant role in his own family, he may perceive your ‘friendly gesture’ as a challenge and bite you. If the dog is friendly and has had overwhelmingly good experiences with people in the past, he may tolerate your inconsiderate gesture, but this isn’t what we want either. When we reach to pet a dog, our desire is to communicate to the dog that we are no threat to them and that we would like to be friends.
This can be communicated by changing 3 simple things in our typical greeting ceremony.
1. Body position- turn your side to the dog
2. Eye contact- glance sideways at the dog without looking directly into his eyes
3. Hand position- put your hand out just lower than his nose, palm down and allow the dog to decide to sniff or approach you, if the dog accepts your invitation by moving calmly toward your hand, you may pet him gently on his chest.
If we all simply improve the way we introduce ourselves to the dogs in our lives, we can all start to put our best paw forward!

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