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Golden Retriever Rescue of Atlanta

It's officially summer! No doubt you and your Golden Retriever are out enjoying fun adventures together in the wonderful warm weather.

When you see someone walking a friendly-looking dog, your first instinct may be to approach the dog to pet him. It's only natural. You’re the type of person who can’t walk past a dog in the park or at the beach without wanting to pet it.

But before you reach out to scratch behind those adorable but unfamiliar ears, remember the proper etiquette for meeting and greeting a stranger’s dog.

Avoiding the temptation to go running up to every dog you see this time of year is really hard. While some dogs may be socialized enough to respond in a friendly manner like a lot of our own beloved Goldens, unfortunately not all dogs will be okay with a stranger approaching and laying hands on them.

If you have good manners, you’ll ask the dog owner if it is okay first. Unfortunately, many people skip this important step assuming that a dog is friendly or that you can pet him without permission. This could prove to be dangerous. The simple truth is you don’t know the dog and he doesn’t know you.

Below you will find a list of the proper steps to take before petting a stranger’s dog that will help to protect both you and your family.

Ask Permission: The first thing you need to do is to ask the owner for permission to pet his dog. Do not assume that it will be okay just because the dog “looks” friendly. When a dog is frightened or feels threatened, he can become defensive or aggressive. This can happen in an instant and you might not have time to retreat. Rather than asking the owner if the dog is friendly, ask if it is okay if you introduce yourself to their dog.

Approach Slowly: If the owner gives you permission to say hello to his dog, approach slowly. Do not rush at the dog in any way. Also, do not show signs of fear as that may make the dog become more nervous. Keep an eye on the dog’s body language at all times and fall back if he appears frightened.

Let Him Sniff You: Before you touch the dog, give him a moment to sniff you and to acquaint himself with your smell. Hold your hand out flat to the dog and let him approach you to sniff your hand. After a few seconds, if the dog appears to be okay with it, you can pet him.

Be Gentle: When you go to pet the dog, always be gentle about it. Scratch him under the chin rather than on top of the head. Always stay in front of the dog where he can see you and do not make any sudden movements that might frighten him.

Keep it Brief: Even if the dog seems to be comfortable with you petting him, you should keep the encounter brief and do not push him past his limits. If the dog starts to get nervous, back off and move along.

Use non-direct eye contact: You’ve already learned that you shouldn’t approach the dog without permission and that when you do approach him do so slowly. Many people make the mistake of bending or squatting down to greet the dog. While this may be okay in some situations, making direct eye contact with a strange dog can sometimes be perceived as a threat to them.

Leave some space: Pet the dog calmly while talking to the owner and back off if the dog seems to get nervous. Do not put your face close to the dog and definitely do not try to hug or kiss him. Not all dogs understand this type of intense affection and a strange dog might perceive it as a threat.

Being around strangers and making new friends are important steps for the socialization of a dog, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Always be alert, understanding, and practice proper etiquette when it comes to greeting a stranger’s dog.

If you follow these simple steps, dog owners everywhere will thank you. Nothing is worse than trying to take your dog out for a walk just to have him be bombarded by people where appropriate etiquette is not adhered to. That's not fair to you or your dog.

All you and your family want is to be safe and have a happy time this summer --- and so does your beloved Golden friend.

Do you have any dog etiquette tips that have helped you in the past? Any positive stories about meeting other dog owners and/or appreciating their approach to wanting to meet your Golden Retriever? Please share them with us at GRRA. We'd love to hear from you. Have a Good Golden day, everyone!

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