What To Do/Not Do When Meeting A New Dog

By: Joel Allen

Hello, folks. I hope all is well. Years ago, back before COVID, I was in Ardmore, Alabama, with my parents. We decided to eat breakfast at Hardee’s and I had brought Zoey (border collie/heeler mix service dog) along with us. Because I knew we would not be in Hardee’s long I decided not to take Zoey in. I sat at a table where I could watch the vehicle Zoey was in with the windows down.

As time went by waiting for our meals, my mom approached the table as I watch another vehicle pull up next to ours. Now, I am watching Zoey to ensure she does not act out or have anyone cause her to. There were three people I could see in the other vehicle getting ready to get out. I noticed the driver look at Zoey, and the look on his face said it all. I elbowed Mom and said, “Not sure, but I think this guy is about to reach into the vehicle and try to pet Zoey. I hope not but he has that look.”

Mom and I watched as the guy stepped out of his vehicle, and I read his lips saying, “Awe! You’re a pretty girl.” Zoey never moved until he reached in the window, and as quick as lightening, she goosed his hand. I say “goosed” because she did not draw blood but inflicted enough pain to make him think twice. Well, I am trying not to laugh (I know, demented soldier humor here) and Mom is going, “That was dumb.” LOL! Then the man’s wife, I am assuming, came around the vehicle, saw the man holding his hand, and I saw her say, “What happened?” The man replied, “That dog bit me!” The woman looked in and saw Zoey, and I told Mom what she was said — “Awe! What a pretty baby.” Then she reached her hand in and got nailed! By this time, I said, “Mom, there is no way people are this naïve.” Well, we were sitting there watching these two looking sullen and holding their hands when, I am guessing, the mother/mother-in-law walked around the vehicle. I stated right then, “Surely she won’t do what they did, surely.” The woman looked at the two holding their hands and asked, “What’s wrong with you two?” They replied, “That dog bit us!” She replied to them both, “Well! Don’t reach your hand in there stupid!” I had to laugh at the whole scenario and to my surprise the couple never came into Hardee’s wanting to know who owned Zoey. I call her my “Nibbler” when she is not working. Lord, don’t touch the vehicle she is in if she is not working either! I hope everyone learned from that true story what we are going to talk about.

So, with a pinch of common sense and a little knowledge, we can make this outcome turn out differently when meeting a new dog. A rule I tend to speak and say for all involved is, “Low and slow.” What do I mean by this? I have anyone meeting my dogs to lower their hands below the muzzle of the dog and allow the canine family member to smell them first, and the dog’s reaction will decide whether we proceed through the introduction. If the dog accepts the person who extends their hand out, it will remain in place. As that person looks into the dog’s face and we both see no telltale signs of rejection/aggression, we will proceed with petting under the muzzle and easing their hand above their head. A person should never reach above the head of a dog that does not know them. It can be misread as a challenge and might get that person bit.

Another rule I like to observe when meeting and greeting a dog I do not know is to make no sudden movements around them. If there are children, and I mean young children that have to be watched and monitored around the dog, I advise getting them away temporarily until the dog settles down. Screaming and crying can really cause a dog to get nervous. I have seen this happen. The dog was so nervous that when the kids were running and playing and, of course, yelling, the dog bit an adult

because it felt the children were in danger. The exact look on the dog was, “Oh, you’re the bad man!” and chomp!

So, what do we do when meeting a dog we do not know? Yes, we leave it alone unless there is an owner present who is watching and controlling their dog. Another rule of common sense is don’t touch a dog that is eating. Most dogs are “foodies.” If they don’t know someone who reaches toward their dog dish, the dog might decide not to share, and that can cause a problem…chomp!

If ever a dog bite happens, remember these questions:

· To the person who was bitten, “What were you doing when it happened?”

· “What was the dog doing at the time?”

· To the owner, “Where were you and what were you doing?”

That’s just the way I roll when faced with this situation. So, a quick recap. We do not approach a dog we do not know. We do not make eye contact with them either. If we are meeting them, we have the owner there to assist in the “meet and greet.” Pay attention to the dog’s body language. If their hackles are up or they have an orb-like look to their eyes, do not continue to reach or approach. Other than this, have a good time meeting a new dog. Just be careful and never assume anything until the dog knows

who you are. See everyone next month and God bless!

By: Joel Allen

ABC Certified Dog Trainer