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Seeking consent and how to approach dogs

Published on 27th December 2016

Dogs can show fear in different ways – ALWAYS get consent BEFORE you touch or approach a dog

Just because a dog looks friendly, is walking calmly or appears stress free, it does not always mean it is happy to be touched.

Dogs communicate very subtle body language, signs that they are a little unsettled or distressed. These signals are not always picked up by all, especially young children.

Always ask before approaching an unknown dog

Always ask consent from the dog owner and the dog before you touch it. This may mean taking the time to practice watching the dog’s body language or staying where you are so the dog can approach you in its own time.

Tips on how to approach an unknown dog

Approaching an unknown dog, head on, is a definite no no, as is bending down and patting it on the head. If someone random came over to me giving me a giant hug – this human equivalent would make me shudder (and feel slightly uncomfortable and on edge).

Just imagine what it’s like for the dog? A sudden rumbling voice, eyes staring down at them and a giant hand swooping down…Ekkkk!

So if you are walking past a dog on the street I advice walking at an arc, not giving direct eye contact and letting the dog make the first move if you want to say hello to it. I often offer a flat palm at a distance, so it can smell me first, or eat a yummy treat from it (with again consent from the owner). My body is slightly tilted away. Another thing I also practice is retreating and dropping a treat. That way the dog can follow me if it wishes knowing that I’m the predictor of good things!

How about friendly dogs?

On the flip side there are lots of dogs that love being stroked and approached by strangers, love a big hug or even a pat on the head. However you should still always ask consent first and not just assume that the dog is friendly.

Conclusion

Why ask consent? Well it’s just polite and good manners and helps reduce the likelihood of potential bites from fearful dogs and helps build up their confidence, knowing they don’t have to fear the unpredictable!

Thanks for reading
Helen Motteram, BSc (hons)

For more advice and support please get in touch: Helen@socialpawscheltenham.co.uk