Love Your Puppy Well: Part 1 – How to Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

How to Approach an Unfamiliar Dog


  • Say something like, “May I pet your dog?’
  • If there is no person with the dog, do not attempt to pet them!


  • If the person says yes to petting, show the dog the back of your hand with your fingers curled under. Let the dog sniff your hand.
  • Curling the fingers under offers some protection from nips. If your fingers are extended, the dog may think that you are offering her food and they might nip. If fingers aren’t easy targets, they won’t get nipped.


  • Respect what the dog “tells” you. If the dog folds their ears back, tucks their tail in, growls or moves away from you – DO NOT PET THE DOG. The dog is telling you they do not want to be petted. If the dog licks your hand and wags their tail, they are letting you know that it is all right to pet them


  • Stroking the back from the head end toward the tail is usually agreeable to most dogs.
  • Listen to suggestions from the dog’s person as to what the dog does or does not like.


  • Stay away from the dog’s face and eyes.
  • Speak softly to the dog while you pet them.
  • Stop immediately and move away if the dog gives any indication that they do not want to be petted anymore.

Do not:

  • Pick up the dog.
  • Pull the dog’s tail or ears, poke the dog, pull the dog’s fur, or pet the dog harshly
  • Put your face near the dog’s face. You can frighten or overwhelm them by getting too close.