How to Safely Meet a New Dog: A Guide for Dog Lovers and Rescue Advocates

Meeting a new dog can be an exciting experience, but it's important to approach dogs with caution and respect their personal space. In this article, we'll go over some tips on how to properly meet a new dog.

Ask Permission

Always ask the dog's owner or handler for permission before approaching the dog. They can give you insight into the dog's personality and whether or not it is open to being petted. If the owner says no, it's best to respect their decision and avoid trying to pet the dog.

Let the Dog Approach You

According to the American Kennel Club, it's rude to stick your hand into a dog's face. Instead, let the dog approach you on its own terms. If the dog shows interest, you can offer the back of your hand for it to sniff. This will help the dog feel more comfortable and less threatened by your presence.

Respect the Dog's Personal Space

Just like humans, dogs have personal space that should be respected. Some dogs may be comfortable with being petted, while others may not want to be touched at all. It's crucial to pay attention to the dog's body language and respect its boundaries. If the dog moves away or shows signs of discomfort, stop petting it immediately.

Don't Pet a Dog Without its Owner's Supervision

If you see a dog in public, never pet it without its owner's supervision. The owner knows their dog best and can tell you if it's okay to approach it. Additionally, petting a dog without its owner's permission can be intrusive and could result in the dog becoming defensive.

Be Mindful of Children

Children often run up to dogs and pet them without caution, which can be scary for the dog. It's important to teach children how to properly meet a new dog and supervise them when interacting with dogs.

Pay Attention to the Dog's Body Language

It's important to pay attention to the dog's body language when meeting a new dog. Signs of stress or discomfort include a tucked tail, flattened ears, growling, or lip licking. If a dog is showing any of these signs, it's best to give it some space and avoid petting it. On the other hand, a relaxed and wagging tail, a friendly face, and a sniffing nose are signs that a dog is comfortable and open to being petted.

Go Slow

When petting a new dog, it's best to go slow and let the dog get used to your touch. Start by petting the dog gently on its chest or under its chin, and gradually work your way up to petting the dog on its back or head.

Avoid Sudden Movements

Sudden movements can be scary for dogs, so it's important to move slowly and calmly when approaching a new dog. Avoid reaching over the dog's head or running your hand over its back too quickly.

Bring Treats with Caution

Treats can be a great way to make a new dog feel more comfortable. However, it's important to exercise caution when giving treats in a multi-dog situation. Dogs can get aggressive, possessive, or protective over treats, and if you're unsure, it's best to give treats once the dogs are at a safe distance from each other or well under control. Offer the treat slowly, and let the dog take the treat from your hand at its own pace. This can help build trust and establish a positive relationship between you and the dog.

Know When to Back Off

It's important to know when to back off and give the dog some space. If the dog seems uncomfortable or shows signs of stress, it's best to give it some space and allow it to feel more relaxed before trying to pet it again.


In conclusion, meeting a new dog can be a fun and exciting experience, but it's important to approach dogs with caution and respect their personal space. By following these tips, you can help ensure a safe and positive interaction between you and the dog. Remember, dogs have personal boundaries just like humans, and it's our responsibility to respect them.