Meeting a Dog For the First Time: Dos and Don’ts

Hooray! You found a dog on Get Your Pet that you’re interested in adopting. You’ve messaged their Guardian, introduced yourself, and asked all the right questions. They seem like a great fit. Now comes the fun part—meeting them! Here are some do’s and don’ts for meeting a dog for the first time.

meeting dog

Do: Let the dog approach you

When meeting a dog, it’s important to be calm and go slow. Your first instinct may be to run towards the dog with open arms, but not so fast! Approaching a dog in this way may startle them, and it can come off as intimidating. Instead, hold a natural stance, and allow the dog to come to you. You want to avoid coming across as fearful, however, as this can lead the dog to be defensive. Be careful, yet confident, when meeting a dog for the first time.

Do: Let the dog sniff you

Introducing yourself to a new dog is all about understanding the dog’s instincts. Dogs have an extremely keen sense of smell. They use scent to understand, and make decisions about, their environment. In just a few sniffs, a dog can get a feel for the gender, health, and even the history of another dog. When a dog sniffs a person, they can determine whether that person has a dog of their own, where in the neighborhood the person might live, and more. They can also pick up on a person’s unique scent to jog their memory as to whether and when they’ve met before! To let a dog sniff you, don’t extend your hand to their face. Instead, let the dog approach you and sniff your hand on their own terms.

Don’t: Pet him on the head

When first meeting a dog, always take care to respect their boundaries. Petting on the head can be threatening for a dog, especially when the person petting them is a complete stranger. Rather than reach for his head right away, start by petting them gently on their back or shoulders. Then, you can work your way towards their face if they are comfortable with it.

Do: Pay attention to body language

Just like humans, dogs communicate through body language. When it comes to decoding dog body language, we have a few tips. In general, things like a curved body, wagging tail, and excitedly circling around you is a good sign; it means they want to get to know you. Bowing down with front legs extended is a gesture that says “Play with me!”. Watch out for anything that could indicate an aggressive or threatening mood, like showing teeth or a stiff, erect tail. It’s also important to note that all dogs react differently to stress. Some may express discomfort or anxiety by licking their lips or yawning. This is considered normal behavior for a dog who is put in a stressful or unfamiliar situation.

Do: Use a calm, low voice when meeting a dog

It’s common for people to use “baby talk” when first meeting a dog but the correct way to approach a dog is to speak in your normal voice. Keep it calm and low. Using a higher pitched voice can signal weakness as well as stress out the dog. Establish your relationship right from the start by emanating confidence and respect for any new dog you meet.


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