FunNature & AnimalThis is the best way to approach a dog...

This is the best way to approach a dog that doesn't know you

It is scientifically proven that if you pass a person walking their dog on the street, your eyes will go to the dog. And curiously, the same thing happens to our canine companions. If they come across a person with a dog, the focus of their attention will go to the animal.

This reason is why dogs are an advertising claim in certain product campaigns that may not be related to them at all. Simply because they draw the viewer’s attention.

But also its soft and tender appearance makes many people, including children, feel the desire to approach and caress them. And this, we know that it can become an invasion of your dog’s security space.

How should we avoid this interference?

I am one of those who thinks that unknown dogs should be left alone. But I am also aware that some interactions, if done properly, can be of benefit to both species, dogs and humans.

therapy dogs

However, the interactions can be so invasive for dogs that they generate an amount of stress that can accumulate chronically in the body and affect the health of the animal.

This is especially important in therapy dogs, in whom the amount of cortisol, a hormone secreted in stressful situations, has been proven to increase when the dog is invaded by the user and has no possibility of withdrawing from the interaction . This frequently occurs during his work as a therapy dog.

The step by step to approach an unknown dog

  1. Ask the owner : the best that anyone knows their dog and can guide you about their tastes when it comes to being caressed. Or it can alert you that leaving the dog alone at that time is a better option. This first piece of advice implies that you should not pet a dog that is waiting alone in the street, much less if it is tied up and does not have freedom of movement, as it could defend itself against your invasion.
  2. Learn to differentiate the signs of the dog : learn the basic signs of stress in the dog.
    For example, a dog is not comfortable if:
    1. yawn
    2. Look out of the corner of your eye, showing the white part in the shape of a half moon (whale eyes)
    3. licks his nose
    4. Shrugs, ducks head or ears, or tucks tail between legs
    5. If he closes his mouth and looks at you very intently
    6. If he growls or barks
    7. If he shows you his teeth…

On these and other occasions it is better to leave them alone.

  1. Let the dogs approach you: and this is as simple as asking them if they want you to approach you, bend down and let them be the ones to take the first step.
  2. Do not be invasive with your caresses: each dog likes to be caressed in a different way, but in general, none likes to be kissed or hugged, and less so by a person they do not know. The best part of petting a dog without being intrusive is its sides.
  3. Do not excite the dog with your voices and caresses: although you think that a dog that you shout that it is beautiful, is happy to jump up and wag its tail, these signs are more related to excessive excitement. By putting the dog as a motorcycle you will not be doing him a favor, because he will learn to interact with unknown people in this way and unfortunately not everyone likes dogs.

Finally, I want to mention Santi Vidal, author of the book, “Colors in the wind”, among others, who taught me to respect what he calls ” the theory of the four Ps ” when petting a dog, and these are:

Warning : the way to approach to initiate communication must be perceived by the dog well in advance and not be caught by surprise.

Permission : you have to crouch down and ask the dog if your approach is correct.

Pleasure : the dog should like our caresses, so they should not be rough or too intrusive.

Productivity : the dog must clearly benefit from the interaction. For example, a good socialization experience.

With all this, I hope that approaching and petting an unknown dog becomes an act of two-way communication with respect for the animal and not a selfish whim.


Glenk, LM, et al. 2013. Therapy dogs’ salivary cortisol levels vary during animal-assisted interventions. anime Welf , 22 (3), 369-378
Tudge, Niki J 2017. Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! A fun, interactive, educational resource to help the whole family understand canine communication. Keep future generations safe by learning to speak dog!

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