People & Inspiration

Cheat Sheet: How To Act Around Dogs When You’re Not A Pet Person

Cheat Sheet: How To Act Around Dogs When You’re Not A Pet Person


By Daniel Baysa
Chalk Campus Correspondent

We all know dogs as man’s best friend. Famed for their loyalty and adored for their cuteness, dogs are regarded as some of the most precious pets in the world.

However, you might have the unfortunate experience of being intimidated by dogs. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You might be tempted to stay away from our dogs, but don’t give up. Their rep for being steadfast guards is just as known as their charm as companions! Here are a few tips if you want to get over your fears and closer to our canine pals!

1. Take a close look at what they do.

Dogs can be pretty expressive, and just like with people, having a closer look at how they act can give you an idea of how they feel. If they’re coiled up and tense, they’re stressed. If their bodies are natural and relaxed, you can relax too. Hearing whether they bark, whimper or snarl at you can clue you in whether they feel comfortable with you getting closer. When that happens, that means you have to adjust a few things about yourself or maybe think about coming back another time and wait for them to be less stressed.

2. Relax yourself, and they will follow.

A dog’s loyalty makes it protective towards those it cares for and potentially suspicious to those that don’t. Thus, they’ll be tempted to bark and have a go at you if you display any unusual signs of behavior. Is your body shaking? Is it tense as bend down to pet them, like a predator about to spring on its prey? Are you prone to sudden movements when you reach out your hand? None of these things will be very comfortable to dogs. Calm yourself down, and you’ll calm them down too.

3. Don’t let them push you over.

Just as children become spoiled if you give them too much ground, dogs will learn they can push you around if you let them. Again, pack mentality: Dogs will respect those who are superior to them, and boss around those who aren’t. Don’t hit them, because they’re not going to trust you after that. Just put your foot down (Literally, if you think that’ll help) and show them who’s boss. Give them a reason to listen to you instead of fearing, suspecting or disrespecting you, and they won’t be barking up your tree. 

4. Don’t run around unless you want them to.

Dogs love themselves a good chase and don’t want anyone on their turf. If they think you’re worth chasing, running will only make them zoom after you too, especially if you turn your backs towards them. That’s a sign of deference, and unless that’s really what you were going for, that won’t fly at all. If you see a dog starting a pursuit, turn back towards them and stand your ground. They’ll realize they can’t mess with you and shy away. Don’t turn away from them until you’re safely out of their turf. The only dogs you should let chase you are ones you know won’t hurt you.

5. Have patience.

Just as it takes time to build relationships with people, you need time to build rapport with dogs. It’ll take time for a loyal canine to warm up to you, but they’ll eventually soften up and treat you with (almost!) as much respect as their masters.

6. Believe in yourself.

This might sound pretty cheesy and generic, but it’s true in more ways than one. While people will see our nervousness and shyness and try to be understanding, dogs can’t always do that. If you want to befriend them but your body shows fear, they’ll call you out on it. If you want to demand respect from them with nervous jitters all over, they won’t be buying it. Make sure you know what you want, you believe you can get it from them, and show it in your body language. If they see you making the effort, they’ll respond with their own understanding and warm up to you.

Economist Malcolm Gladwell in his article What the Dog Saw compared dogs with autistic children. They have entirely different viewpoints and understandings of the world, so you can’t interact with them like you would other people. You have to see things from their point of view and be patient and understanding in order to get their respect. Dogs may be domesticated, but they still have their animal instincts and ways of thinking. Understand that, and you can understand them. Work with that in mind and soon, they’ll understand you.

ALSO READ: In Focus: 6 Ways To Reconnect With Old Friends Who Drifted Away




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