Dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Under perfect conditions, they have been reported to smell people or objects standing more than 12 miles away or up to 40 feet underground! So, if dogs can smell things from such a great distance, why do we have dogs sniff our hands the first time we meet them?
Many of us were taught that the proper way to greet a new pup is approach them with the back of your hand extended and let them do a sniff test. That way, the dog can get a feel for you and see if they like you. Depending on their reaction, then you could pet the dog. If you've ever done this, it probably went fine; after a few quick sniffs, you'd be well on your way to a new furry best friend. However, animal behaviorists and dog trainers have found that letting a dog sniff your hand isn't actually the best way to greet an animal you've never met.
Dog behavior can be unpredictable, and you never know what kind of background a pup comes from. Some dogs consider sudden movements toward their face to be a potential threat. Depending on their upbringing, approaching a dog with your hand extended may make them defensive and want to bite. If you think about it, you wouldn't like a hand being thrust in your face, either. The last thing you want to do is make a dog feel threatened when you just want to scratch its ears.
How To Greet New Dogs
When you approach a dog you have never met, ask the owner if you can pet them. While the dog may look friendly, you never know how dogs will react to meeting new people. Pay attention to the dog's body language, respect the owner's instructions, and always stay calm.
When the owner gives you the go-ahead, leave your hands at your side and let the dog walk up to you. If the dog chooses not to approach you, it's best to leave them be. Some dogs will walk up and sniff your hands, arms, feet, or even your crotch. Experts believe this is a dog's way of collecting information about who you are and where you've been.
Once that exchange happens, you can give the dog scratches on its side, chest, back, and neck. Try not to reach over the top of a dog's head, as that may frighten them. Remember to move slowly and pet gently; no matter how cute a pup looks, you shouldn't try to hug them. Keep the interaction brief so you don't overwhelm the dog.
If a dog without an owner comes running up to you, remain calm and try not to move too much. You do not want the dog to feel threatened. Standing with your body positioned to the side and your arms down makes you more approachable. Always proceed with caution with stray dogs, as their behavior can change in an instant.
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