In today’s world, we tend to encounter dogs way more than ever before. We could be running in the park, shopping at Home Depot, or even tailgating at our favorite sporting event. Maybe we hit the local dog-friendly farmer’s market, and want our kids to have fun approaching the dogs. Whatever your situation, it’s important to be able to safely approach a dog you didn’t train yourself.
First, always, always, always ask the owner if it is ok to approach and/or pet their dog. Owners know their dogs' personalities best. Also, some dogs are meant for service and cannot be pet while working. Once you have clearance: To approach a dog, you should first think like a dog. The goal here is to allow the dog to become comfortable with you and not sense that you could be a threat. Like any of us when we sense a threat, dogs will tell you to get back. Unfortunately, they usually do it by growling, barking, or biting.
Dogs aren’t usually big fans of being closely watched, or stared at. With that in mind, avoid bending down towards them in a way that would be head to head, or eye to eye. It’s typically better to squat down with your hand out and let the dog come up to you. It's better than bending down toward them or over their head. If a dog is skittish, avoid even waving your hand over, or petting the top of their head. The safest areas to pet are usually their back, ribs, chest and under their chin. Fast or sudden moves are also things you don’t want to do if a dog is still getting used to you.
Now, I don’t want you thinking you will get bit by every stranger dog if you don’t approach them properly. But you have to understand dogs rationalize differently than us. They are much more instinctual. If you give them a reason to doubt you or be scared, it can evoke an aggressive reaction on their part. Just stay calm, be cool, and use the above tips to make sure you keep making new dog friends, not enemies. Lol.