How To Greet A Dog Or Cat
Would you go up to a stranger at a cookout and pat them on the head? No way, right? Why do so many people do that to our pets? It's hard to resist a puppy or kitten! Our pets rely on us to speak for them, so when you see a cute dog or cat, ask their human if you can say "hello" to them.
We must remember that not all dogs (or cats) enjoy being petted by strangers. Some fear genders, hats, masks, sunglasses, children, noise, or canes. Both puppies and kittens can get overstimulated by their environment and could nip or scratch when they become fearful. This is why it is best to ask before greeting a new animal.
If the pet's person tells you it's ok to pet Fido or Fluffy, there is, of course, a right and wrong way to approach an unknown pet. First, crouch down to the dog so you are not doing the "overhead dread." Fido could fear a person standing over him and reaching toward his head. Also, turn a bit sideways, so you are not staring at him, and don't make direct eye contact. Otherwise, you may be perceived as a threat causing the dog to become nervous.
Let the dog come to you. Many people reach their hand out to a dog so they can smell it. However, this is unnecessary since a dog's nose is so finely tuned he can smell you just fine a few feet away. Some rescue dogs that may have been in an abusive situation will shy away from a hand or outstretched arm.
If the dog comes to you, he's saying he would like to meet you. Don't pat him on the top of the head; many dogs don't enjoy that; instead, stroke him on his back, neck, or sides. Do not make any sudden movements and talk to the pooch in a quiet happy voice.
Don't encourage bad behavior; if Fido jumps up and the owner pushes him down, don't say, "It's ok, I'm fine with jumping." Help the owner by gently pushing Fido off, backing up a bit, or asking him to sit instead of jumping up. You don't want to instigate bad manners.
Here are signs of a relaxed, happy dog: soft eyes, relaxed ears, an open mouth, loose calm body, wagging tail, and seeking out contact. Signs that a dog is uneasy: lip licking, blinking, a closed mouth, ears pinned back, turning his head away from you, wide eyes with the whites showing, a stiff body posture, or trying to walk away from you. Don't pet that dog; he's frightened. Just talk to him in a friendly, calm voice; that may be all he enjoys.
If you're meeting a cat, again ask if she's friendly, and allow the cat to decide how fast and far the meeting should go. If the kitty seems interested, try offering her a single finger. This is a very non-aggressive way to show you're interested in getting to know her. The cat may sniff your finger or rub against it (which is saying she would like a scratch). If so, hold out your entire hand, let Fluffy sniff it, and stoke her around their ears, cheeks, and under her chin. If she looks uncomfortable, don't go in for the pet. Just talk to her in a quiet calm voice and wait for Fluffy to get comfortable.
Teach these "rules" to your kids too. When you follow these tips, you'll make a lot of new canine and feline friends!