Meeting A New Dog: Etiquette guide for Sitters

Author picture Jessica  - updated: 16/06/2024

Human-Dog Introductions

Not all dogs are naturally sociable. A solid introduction is important to ensure a positive experience for both the dog and the human. By following proper etiquette, you can help make these meetings smooth and enjoyable.

Reading Dog Signals

Firstly, it is important to remember to ask the owner first before you approach. Not all dogs like being petted by strangers and the owner is the most experienced person present in reading their dogs' body language. Its best to defer to their judgement during these initial meetings as they know their dogs etiquette.

Understanding Body Language Dogs communicate primarily through body language. Recognising these signals will determine if a dog is open to interaction or needs space.

  • Approachable Signals: Wagging tail, relaxed body, approaching you with curiosity. These indicate a dog is friendly and open to meeting new people.
  • Caution Signals: Licking lips, yawning, tail tucked, showing the whites of the eyes. These are signs that a dog is anxious or uncomfortable and may not want to interact.
A nervous dog

Reading the Environment

It's also important to take note of any environmental stressors that may impact the dogs behaviour. For example, take note if the dog is tied up or restricted in any way that may make it feel stressed or unable to leave. Take note of any loud noises or construction in the area that may be unsettling to your furry friend and try to remove these stressors if possible.

This way, you get to meet each other without unnecessary distractions.

Proper Introduction Techniques

  • Ask Permission: As mentioned, always ask the dog’s owner if it’s okay to approach and pet their dog. Respecting the owner’s wishes is important, as they know their dog’s temperament best.
  • Calm Approach: Approach the dog calmly and slowly. Sudden movements can startle a dog and make them anxious.
  • Let the Dog Initiate: Allow the dog to come to you first. Extend your hand slowly for them to sniff, but don’t force it if they seem hesitant.

Managing the Interaction

  • Monitor Body Language: Watch for signs of discomfort or aggression, such as stiff bodies, raised hackles, or growling. Step back if you see these signs to prevent escalation.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Reward the dog’s calm and friendly behaviour with gentle petting and soothing words. This encourages good behaviour and helps dogs associate meeting new people with positive experiences.
  • Short and Sweet: Keep the first interaction brief to prevent overwhelming the dog. Gradually increase the time spent together as the dog becomes more comfortable.

Respecting Boundaries

Knowing When to Step Back

  • Stress Signals: If you notice any signs of stress or discomfort, calmly step back and give the dog space. It’s better to end an interaction early than to push a dog beyond its comfort zone.
  • No Forcing: Never force a dog to interact if they are showing signs of aggression or fear. Respect their boundaries to maintain a peaceful and positive environment.
A social doggo

Dog Etiquette in Public

If meeting a new dog in a public space, it important to remember personal safety, as this environment can be a lot more for the dog to process and handle.

  • Give Space: Respect the dog’s personal space, especially if they’re on a leash or the owner indicates their dog needs space. Some dogs may have anxiety or health issues that require more space.
  • Ask Before Feeding: Never offer food or treats to a dog without the owner’s permission. Some dogs have dietary restrictions or allergies.

Distractions and Safety

  • No Sudden Movements: Keep your movements slow and deliberate. Sudden movements can startle a dog and make them feel threatened.
  • Stay Calm and Quiet: Maintain a calm and quiet demeanour. Loud noises and sudden actions can make a dog anxious.
A patient Beagle

Communicating with Dog Owners

Clear Communication

  • Detailed Questions: Ask the dog owner about their dog’s behaviour, preferences, and any known triggers. This knowledge helps you manage your interaction and potential booking more effectively.
  • Respect Boundaries: Listen to the owner’s guidance about how to interact with their dog and respect any limitations they set.

Handling Negative Interactions

If Tensions Rise

  • Stay Calm: Remain calm and avoid shouting or making sudden movements. Your calm demeanour can help diffuse the situation.
  • Step Back: If a dog becomes aggressive or overly excited, step back slowly and give them space. Avoid physical intervention unless absolutely necessary.
  • Redirect Attention: Encourage the dog to refocus their attention on their owner or a toy. Redirecting their focus can quickly deescalate tension.


By following these etiquette guidelines, you can help ensure that meeting a new dog is a positive experience for everyone involved. In short:

  • Ask Permission: Always get consent before approaching and petting a dog.
  • Observe Signals: Pay attention to body language and stress signals.
  • Respect Space: Give the dog and their owner plenty of room.
  • Stay Calm: Keep your movements slow and deliberate, and your demeanour calm and quiet.
  • Communicate Clearly: Ask the owner about the dog’s behaviour and preferences and respect their guidance.


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