We meet new people all the time in the course of a regular day. A new acquaintance at work or someone new to town at a party is not an uncommon occurrence, and as such, navigating these situations has become second nature to many of us. Meeting a new dog, however, comes with its own set of pitfalls and may not come as naturally to some. Here are some pointers to get you through the encounter.
Most importantly, try not to seem threatening. This means that you shouldn’t be towering over the dog, baring your teeth (i.e., smiling), and immediately reaching out to pet him/her. Try crouching down to bring your body down to the dog’s level. If you’re going to smile, do it without showing teeth and also avert your gaze so that you’re not making direct eye contact with the dog, which can be perceived as a challenge. Let the dog’s curiosity bring him/her over to you and when they do want to say hello, gently extend your closed hand for them to sniff. Give them all the time they need. Try talking to them in a soothing voice.
If the dog seems reluctant to interact with you, don’t try to force it. Just give them time. When you try to force the issue, you could be backing the animal into a corner where a fight or flight response will kick in, and that’s good for no one. Some dogs just need more time meeting new people than others, so be patient. Sooner or later, they’ll get curious about this new person in their space, and they’ll come to investigate.