3 Things You Should Do To Help Any Dog Feel At Ease
Whether you’re heading to a meet and greet, bringing your new dog home for the first time, or just meeting someone’s dog on the street, knowing how to put a dog at ease is the first step to becoming a dog whisperer and a paw-some P.E.T. parent. Here are three tips that are sure to help you make friends with any dog you meet.
1. Tone of Voice
Soft, melodic, calm tones are the fastest way to communicate, “I’m not here to hurt you” to a dog. Singing softly or even reading aloud gives your voice a melodic tone that sends a non-threatening message of comfort. The tone of voice that you speak in often reflects the way you are feeling, if you can successfully convince yourself to speak softly and happily, chances are high that your body language will reflect your voice and lead the dog to become curious while they edge closer to you.
2. Body Language
Be still, crouch down or sit in a chair, turn sideways, head down looking at the ground, hands relaxed at your side. This kind of body language tells a dog that you are not looking to overpower them. As the dog approaches you, slowly offer your hand, with your palm up, lower than the dog’s head and allow them to sniff your hand. If the dog does not back away, offer a light pet or scratch under their chin. Pro tip: never approach a dog from above and try to pet them directly on top of their head, for a shy dog this could feel like a threat from above and cause them to feel stress and fear. Instead, a scratch or pet below the chin is a great way to say hello and avoid trouble.
3. Eye Contact
Never stare directly at a dog you don’t know or are meeting for the first time. Direct eye contact communicates dominance to a dog and to a dog that doesn’t know you, establishing dominance is just too much, too soon. Instead, let the dog establish initial eye contact. Briefly looking away let’s the dog know that you do not pose a threat. Allow the dog a moment or two to decide whether or not you’re allowed to do more than just exchange glances. Once the dog shows positive body language (to learn more check out our article Dog Speak: Your Dog's Body Language and What it Means) crouch down and offer them a friendly scratch under the chin.
Consider trying any or all of these tips the next time you meet a new four-legged friend and you’ll be calling yourself ~the dog whisperer~ in no time.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Training a dog is like teaching someone to speak a new language. Be patient and give your dog the help they need to feel successful. Praise is the surest way to get a dog to repeat a behavior - so give lots of it.