Did you know that interacting with a friendly dog can lower your blood pressure? Animal therapy is arguably the best kind of therapy, but only if both parties are receptive to the interaction. If you approach a dog the wrong way, the dog may become fearful and anxious. Use the following tips to improve your understanding of pet psychology and best practices in petting.
Understanding a Dog’s Body Language
It can be tricky for humans to understand the subtle cues of a dog’s posture. Licking the lips, for example, may indicate fearfulness. The same is true of the following:
- Flattened ears
- Tail down behind the legs
- Averting the eyes
- Raised fur on the back of the neck
Avoid approaching a dog who displays these indications of fear. Likewise, watch out for the following signs of aggression:
- Still, rigid posture
- Lunging forward
- Growling or snarling
- Quick nip or bite
- “Punching” a person with the nose
- Mouthing without pressure
Approaching an Unknown Dog
You should always ask an unknown dog’s caretaker if you have permission to pet the dog and whether the dog is friendly. If you’re approaching a stray dog, stop a short distance away from the dog and crouch down or turn your body sideways. If the dog’s body language is positive, extend a hand outward to invite the dog to come sniff you.
Petting an Unknown or Known Dog
When a dog is receptive to being petted, it’s a safe bet that he or she will enjoy a good scratch on the cheek or chest, or behind the ears. Dogs also enjoy being petted on the head and the upper to mid-back. Avoid trying to pet a dog on the legs or tail, and many dogs prefer that humans avoid the rump area too. If the dog rolls over, he or she probably wants you to scratch the tummy.
Horizon Animal Hospital is an AAHA-accredited facility that invests in the latest veterinary technologies to support the health of our patients. Our veterinarians in Scottsdale welcome the opportunity to get to know your dog, and to help you keep him or her healthy. Call (480) 800-4559 for an appointment.