Communicating with Dogs

Since adopting a puppy mill dog, I have become extra sensitive on how to communicate with all dogs we encounter throughout our neighborhood. Never thought much about it before hand, but Elsa gave me an opportunity to see life through her eyes and realizing how even non-puppy mill dogs may not appreciate being patted on their head or various other kinds of encounters. This chart shows various poses that you might consider the next time you see a dog behave to stimuli. Rather than rushing up to a dog that looks so adorable he or she just can’t be not greeted, think about how they perceive your bum rush. Dogs like Sam could probably care less, but dogs like Elsa may have a problem with a stranger coming up and patting her on the head. Luckily we’ve been pretty lucky. She’s very curious about uprights, even little uprights but I still caution would-be greeters to let her make the first move.


Are you over-enthusiastic about greeting strange dogs you encounter? Have any close calls with objections?

Live, love, bark! <3

55 thoughts on “Communicating with Dogs

  1. It’s always great when people ask before they pet a dog even a friendly one. There are days that they may just not be up socialize also it ticks me off when people let thier kids run up to a dog without so much as checking with the owner then lose their minds if the dog growls. Then again I guess it comes with experience I guess. Both my dogs are friendly but they have their diva days and that’s taught me to be cognizant that strays and other pets might have those too!

  2. My friend’s one dog, Toby, definitely does NOT like being rushed, or even greeted calmly, by strangers. Not even his pawrents’ friends that he sees on a regular basis. So, Sabine just asks people to let him make the first move. His bark is pretty deep for a guy his size, too, so people usually keep their distance.

    I ought to print out the chart and make Sam study it; BUT, I know his reaction will be “that’s bulls***!” and he’ll continue to do “his thing”. Makes it difficult at best for Ducky to relax. But at least she listens to me (most of the time).

    1. Sam could be ‘related’ to my brother who’s the only person in the world Sam absolutely hates and who totally continues to totally ignore everything I’ve ever told him about how to greet Sam. It always falls on deaf ears. I’ve given up and only try to corral Sam before the brother sets him off. We totally missed that that today when we saw him. *Sigh* 🙁

      1. She’s fine right now. Took her back to the vet today and we’re starting her on a different anxiety med. Once I see how it’s going, I’ll do another “Oh, Ducky!” post.

  3. I’m afraid that I am probably on e of the uber-friendly uprights you’re talking about. I am pretty extroverted and love dogs so can easily rush up to them. That said, I am aware of cues that they’re not happy and wold soon back off.
    Bilbo is quite a nervy dog and isn’t great when people first arrive at the house so I tend to leave him outside while the people settle in and let him back in after 10-15 minutes and his fine. I tell people he’s like the shy guy standing in the corner at the pub holding a beer. It takes awhile for him to come out of his shell.
    xx Rowena

    1. Sam absolutely despises by brother despite years of reminding him how to greet him, he still completely ignores all my admonishments. Maybe one day but I doubt it. Have no clue as to why he loathes him, and since he continues to ignore my instruction, just try to now corral him BEFORE the brother shows up. We missed today. 🙁 *Sign*

  4. What a great poster. The little dog reminds me of Leo. I’ll admit I used to rush up to every dog I met and forced loving on them. I’m much better now and wait for dogs to approach me when they’re ready. Or not.

    1. Thanks, we try to get people to realize some dogs just have a hard time greeting uprights. Sadly I have never been successful getting through to one of my brothers. *Sigh* Sam must think he’s a serial killer given the way he reacts.

  5. I am so appreciative when people ask before petting. Although pugs are generally friendly dogs, they don’t always like to be “surprised” with attention. Mabel tends to get stressed out by small children. I also keep a close eye when we are at training sessions or trials – some owners don’t realize they should not let their dogs get right in my dogs face without restraint. A few years ago my Angel Greta was attacked by a bigger dog – he apparently felt she was invading his space. Luckily her injury was minor and I try to be much more observant to the signals other dogs show.

  6. When we work at the library, Mom and I help kids understand some smart ways to approach a new doggie. That chart is awesome. Mom printed it out to give to some of the kids.

    Love and licks,

  7. This is a great reminder for all of us dog lovers to respect that a dog as cute and friendly as they may be is still an animal. Every dog I see i want to meet but I always first ask their owner if I can approach their dog and even then I move slow and try not to make eye contact until the dog has smelled me and we are both certain we can trust one another. And then of course at that point I begun gushing and talking baby talk to them all the while scratching their face and neck…. I’m a sucker for a dog that’s for sure! I also learned early on with Kali, because of her anxiety around other dogs, to watch for body language from both her and the dogs we would encounter on our walks.

  8. I hadn’t been around too many fearful dogs until recently, when my sister-in-law and brother-in-law brought home a very, very fearful dog (as in, hides as soon as people come to their house). Last time we were there, though, she finally came out and let us pet her. It took time, but she got there. She’s still not comfortable, but she’s getting there!

  9. Whereas Ray was not a puppy mill origin (as far as we know – he was after all a stray), we too found it incredibly important to see the world from his perspective. It does not stop thoughtless people doing equally thoughtless things, but at least it draws our attention to various possibilities and we can therefore intervene!

  10. I was bitten on my lip (still have a scar) by my aunt’s dog when I was a young child. I have no memory of it (and I’m sure I did something I shouldn’t have) but it never scared me off of dogs or any animals. I’m sure it had to do with how my mother handled it (which I don’t remember either). We had a dog when I was a child but it was an overactive terrier that was hard to manage (not snappy just like jumping). Still love dogs though although now I have three cats. I’ve have cat scars too but not from my present crew who are the best! I try to educate people about how to approach a dog because most go to pet the head. If you did that to me, I’d bite too.

    1. Exactly, Kate! You were lucky you weren’t scarred for life emotionally against dogs. I was attacked in the face by a cat as a very small child (no doubt having done something horrid the cat objected to) and still am a bit frightened of them. Glad your current crew is so sweet!

      1. I credit my mother with making the difference. She was a calm person and never one to freak out even when her child was injured. (I should say especially when her child was injured.) Knowing her as I do, I’m sure she minimized the event for me. She also kept exposing me to dogs (carefully). My grandparents were farmers so not being comfortable around animals was not allowed. The only animal I was very cautious of was my aunt’s (same aunt) ram. That thing butted me more times than I care to remember.

        1. Rams aren’t especially known for their cuddliness, are they? Your mom did you such a brilliant favor. Too often pets suffer from mishandling by uprights from both the actual event and the long lasting emotional effects. Especially sad as it’s not their fault.

          1. Smoky was not cuddly, not after he was grown. He didn’t really hurt you but he would give you a major shove. As I remember the dog that bit me was an older smelly one (a child’s view).

  11. Monika, it is very thoughtful of you to bring this to everyone’s attention. I have been amazed at how good so many young children were with Lexi. It was easy to see their parents had taught them. Then there were the others… The worst of all were the ones who were afraid of her. It was also easy to see that their parents had passed on their fears. So sad.

    1. The damage that can be done to both dogs and uprights has the potential to be permanent which is beyond unfortunately. People need to be careful AND responsible about what they do when it comes to introductions with pets.

  12. There are several rescues in the neighborhood at the moment. I was determined to win them over. When they looked fearful or stressed, I turn my back to them while talking as Cesar Milan said to do. When I meet them approaching, I stop short of them with my arms to my sides and talk. Coo. I let them sniff without reaching for them. After about 5 sessions of that I can say they now play bow, approach me, allow soft petting. Yea!
    I don’t like it when people grab me either and they do. Hard hugs with that side to side thing hurts me, so I’d rather they approach slower too!! Maybe I’m a rescue!

  13. My bipeds are careful about greeting other dogs, but lots of people of all sizes rush up to make a fuss of me. I enjoy it because I’ve been used to it from a pup.

  14. I usually like to welcome dogs by scratching and patting them, but I hope I’m not too enthusiastic for them. I try to sense if they are the ones seeking contact, and then pat them.
    A story here from my childhood. I don’t recall exactly how old I was then. Maybe ten or eleven. Here it goes: my father and I were at our gas station, filling up the tank, when the gas station’s owner’s dog, a beautiful German Shepherd, came up to me and I wanted to pat him. I made the mistake of trying to pat him on the head, my hand naturally coming from above, which frightened him – quite naturally, too. So the dog tried to snap at my hand, which I managed to pull away. This rapid movement frightened the dog even more and he bit my upper leg. Not much, but a flap of skin [about the size of a Quarter, came loose. I was taken to our family doctor, luckily just across the street, for treatment. And while I was there, father finished filling up the tank, all the while chatting with the gas station’s owner about the incident. Result, as in those times there wasn’t any automatic shut-off of the gas: he kept filling and filling the tank until the gas ran over his feet! 😉 As for me: I got some penicillin and 2 staples, and that was it.

    1. Oh yikes! Sorry you had that experience with the Schäferhund. All too often, an experience like that can permanently scar both dog and person. You were lucky. When I first came to America, I approached a cat in the wrong manner and was promptly scratched badly in the face. I’m better now, but it left me terrified of cats. I always tell kids we meet on our walks not to pat the dogs on the head since they probably would like someone banging on theirs but am always surprised when adults do it. 😉

  15. Seems to me that Jealous is not considered. We believe the WaWa – being used to being a single dog, – is jealous of the attention that Benji gets so she attacks him to scare him away and then I can play with her.

    1. Fear aggression is part of that and some dogs just never recover from it. I suspect it’s even more prevalent among tiny pups. Life and everything in it is gigantic in their eyes. Plus when she’s rewarded if she’s being played with after chasing off Benji, so it reinforces that behavior to do it again. Dogs are quite clever! 😉

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