Basic Canine Behavioral Characteristics
Dogs are pack animals. They are highly socialable by nature and are well-adapted to living with people and other animals. Most dogs naturally gravitate to other dogs and prefer company over solitude. Still, dogs differ widely in their dispositions. Some are extremely shy. Some are dominant or aggressive. Many dogs; the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever for example, are known for being outgoing, happy, enthusiastic and playful. Despite their natural affinity for one another, our canine companions still need to be introduced properly and carefully. People also need to meet and greet unfamiliar dogs respectfully.
Dog Manners 101
When introducing unfamiliar dogs, it’s important for both owners to agree to the meeting and how it should proceed. Some things to consider include:
- The gender of each dog
- Whether one or both dogs are intact
- Whether a female is in season
- How well each dog is socialized
- Are one or both of the dogs especially shy
- Are one or both of the dogs especially dominant
- Are one or both of the dogs aggressive
Once the owners agree that it's fine for their dogs to meet, it is time to introduce the people to the dogs. Each owner should introduce himself or herself to the other dog by politely extending a hand, palm down, for it to sniff. If that goes well, the person can give the pooch a gentle rub around the ears and on the top of the head or back. After these initial gestures are taken care of, the dogs can be allowed to meet. They should sniff each other’s noses and other body parts. Tails should be wagging. They may play-bow, bark, put a paw on the other dog’s back and generally act rambunctious. Or, they may be scared and shy away. Both dogs should be on leash so that their owners can manage the interaction. Most dogs enjoy meeting other dogs. The encounter should be fun for everyone involved.
People Meeting Unfamiliar Dogs
Dog lovers have an irresistible impulse to run up to unfamiliar dogs and say hello. However, some dogs and their owners don't react well to the sudden attention. The dog may just be learning to walk on a leash and be difficult to control. It may be anxious or afraid of strangers. Protective dogs may bite someone that gets too close to them or their owner. The best rule is to always ask a dog’s handler for permission before even thinking about approaching the animal.
Once the owner says it’s okay to say hello, gently greet the dog in a calm, quiet voice and stretch your hand out, palm down, to the dog’s nose. Don’t stare into its eyes or hold eye contact for long periods of time. Let the dog sniff your hand. If it wants to continue the greeting, it will nudge you or move towards you. At this point, pet the dog gently, staying away from sensitive areas near the base of the tail, on the flanks or on the back of the legs. Talk to the dog in a soothing voice while you get acquainted. If the dog is timid and shies away, say goodbye in a friendly voice and walk on. Always be respectful of an unfamiliar dog’s attitude.