Communicating With a Dog

There are dos and don’ts when interacting with a dog. They can make a big difference in how a dog responds to you, particularly a dog who is stressed or frightened.

Whether it’s your dog or meeting a strange dog, it’s important to understand dog/human ways of communication. Never force a dog to come to you. A frightened or stressed dog may use the fight or flight response. Remain calm and speak softly until the dog decides on the response.

Turn your body and face sideways. Looking at dog head on can mean a confrontation is imminent. Staring at or direct eye contact with any animal is taken as a threat. Don’t look directly into the eyes, focus on using a gentle expression. Making direct eye contact with a strange dog can be viewed as aggression by the animal and you may be bitten.

Instead of bending over a dog, stoop down to the dog’s level. Slow movements are less frightening to a dog.

Your own dog is probably used to your smile with teeth showing. But to some animals, strange dogs included, a show of teeth can be threatening. Smile with a closed mouth.

Most dogs do not like to be petted on top of the head. Instead, allow the dog to smell your closed fist, then pet the chest, gradually moving to the rest of the body, as long as the dog is comfortable. You may then gently take hold of the collar to attach a leash.

Following these suggestions can help you to “speak” with your dog in his/her language and can be an aid when confronted by a strange dog.

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