Not every person wants to meet your dog!

Keeping your dog happy and safe is your primary focus when you are out and about. Knowing his or her individual body language is especially important as this is how your dog tells you that everything is great, just ok, or that help is needed to cope with that particular moment. Moreover, knowing dog body language will help you to recognize when other dogs may be fearful or unfriendly and when to keep an appropriate distance from them.
 
What many people don’t think about is that you can use your knowledge of body language to read people as well as dogs!* It is important to understand and respect the fact that not everyone wants to meet your dog. Cuing into a person’s body language will help you to avoid a potentially awkward situation. Moreover, from your dog’s point of view, avoiding those who don’t enjoy canines is as vital as having dog lovers greet him correctly.
 

With that in mind, here are my hints:

Watch for flight from people. Like dogs it could be very subtle (looking away, turning their head, taking a step backwards). Have treats at the ready to distract your dog from greeting  someone who doesn’t want to meet him. A fistful of treats at his nose may be all you need to keep him with you.

Watch for subtle signs of fight in people. The vast majority of people will not lash out at your dog, but fight can be the first response for someone afraid of a situation. Some signs of fight could be: furrowed brow, frowning or grimacing, clenched teeth, direct stare, stiff body posture, crossed arms, clenched fists.

Watch for freezing in people. Slowing their movements, not moving at all, trying to make themselves smaller, or going very stiff as your dog approaches are all signs that canines make this person uncomfortable.

Children can be tricky for dogs and vice versa. If your dog is backing away, do not let the child pet your dog. If the child is backing away, do not allow your dog to pursue her! If both are relaxed and comfortable, encourage the child to pet your pup softly between the shoulder blades or to stroke the dog’s back. 

Do a 3 second greeting with people as well as dogs! Maybe it will be longer than 3 seconds, but keep the meeting short and successful if you think your dog is becoming uncomfortable, or the person you are visiting is uncomfortable

Keep your leash loose so your dog has options to move. A person may startle at your dog and you want him to have the ability to move away as quickly as possible. If the leash is taut, he may lose that option.

And lastly: If either the person or the dog starts to move away from a situation, take that as a cue that it’s time to go. The bottom line here is to trust yourself. If you are uncomfortable with a person, situation, or moment, or detect that someone else is uncomfortable, then simply move along. Often times I just smile, say hi, and give my dog a treat as we pass by a person or group of people. I try to remember that I am an ambassador for the next dog who comes along. If I am sensitive to the people and dogs we encounter, and remember that my dog doesn’t have to greet everyone we meet, then I am probably doing a good job of keeping everyone safe and happy…not to mention promoting good will towards dogs.

 
 
 
*Dr. Patricia McConnell has some wonderful photos in her book For The Love Of A Dog, that show the similarity between human and canine body language and facial expressions. And, one of my blogs on body language which might be helpful: https://apositiveconnection.com/2016/01/can-you-hear-me-now-or-learning-to-effectively-communicate-with-fido/

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