Approaching An Unknown Dog


Do Not Buy or Adopt Sight Unseen (See Below)


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Whether you are approaching a Pit Bull, or any dog that you do not know, there are several things to keep in mind. If you don’t know the dog or you are fearful of dogs it is best to leave — dog’s sense fear and can cause you more problems.

Even the best of dog owners may still feel fear when approaching a Pit Bull or when being approached by a Pit. This is because its’ ingrained in us that Pit Bulls are mean dogs. Remember, it is not the dog it is the owner. I would be looking to the owner as well as for signals from the dog.

I have mentioned earlier in this series that there are certain people that should not own a Pit Bull, and I would be looking to get a sense of the person at the other end of the leash. (see Pit Bull Puppy Training and Socialization

In this final post of the series I would like to provide you with tips and thoughts for approaching any strange dog.

Approaching a dog you’ve never met could be hazardous. Consistently keep in mind that he is also potentially fearful of you, your pleasant advances can be mistaken as a threat and the dog may actually be scared.

The Signs and Signals

Below I have listed several of the usual anxiety (or attack signals), you should look for:

  • Shrill barking
  • Teeth exposed, with or without growling
  • Hackles elevated
  • Staring straight in your eye
  • Crouching with muscular tension; tail held firm or in-between the hind legs
  • Standing with muscular tension with tail held stiff at ‘half-mast’.
  • Ears flat to his head.
  • Coming straight towards you with head down.
  • Attempting to circle or get behind you.

What to do if a strange dog approaches you:

  • Stop do not move your hands or body.
  • Speak gently to him in a pleasant and soft voice.
  • Wait to view exactly the dog’s perspective. If he’s pleasant, crouch down, and respond carefully as explained previously, consistently watch for any signs that the dog may be becoming uncomfortable. Stay tranquil and absolutely do not approach him or connect with him if he appears perturbed in anyway.
  • If he attempts to circle you, pivot gradually, to ensure that you are constantly encountering him. Keep your arms or legs still as you pivot.
  • Never turn your back on a canine that is moving towards you. Do not panic or run away, this will can cause a chase to ensue.
  • Never kick, strike, or make any kind of harmful bodily approach to any dog, whether an unknown dog or not.

The best ways to determine a pleasant pet dog from a possibly unfriendly one

You’ll recognize the pleasant canine right away from his appearance and body language: He’ll come up to you freely, his nose smelling to capture your fragrance, his tail wagging and held high.

Always use care with any dog you do not recognize, yet if you use the tips and understand the signs to look for there’s a great opportunity a reluctant canine could feel comfy and become your best buddy.

  • Get the dog’s interest: Make a soft sound with your tongue, or talk with him silently. Whatever you do, do not scare him.
  • Approach the canine VERY gradually. Attempt to appear small, by moving into a half-crouch, coming down towards the dog’s level, however remain mindful of his pose and possible mindset.
  • Be patient. Permit the canine to come to you. Never toss a treat straight at the dog.

If he does come to you:

  • Be cautious not to make “harmful actions”: Never look the dog straight in the eye; look off to one side of the dog.
  • Remain motionless, as the dog smells at your hand. Permit him to complete his assessment of your hand, then SLOWLY move the same hand to just behind one of his ears and scratch or pet the carefully.

If he declines your invite, and makes a decision not to approach, don’t try to push the greeting.

Dogs constantly offer various signals before they strike, but most people either don’t know the signals or don’t see them (see above).

If a dog shows indications of being scared or worried (specifically if he’s collared and leashed, and cannot run away), leave him alone. If he appears interested or neutral, and is showing none of the caution indicators listed above, you could gradually – VERY gradually – begin to take SMALL steps in his direction if you feel he’s simply timid. If you’re unsure for any reason leave the meeting for a better time.

I have provided you these resources to help you understand how to approach all dogs, and is the best way to prevent dog bites. All dogs provide signals before any attack or bite, but it is up to you to recognize them. The signals can be very quick. Many times I’ve heard people say that a dog bite “came out of no where”. But, if you know and can recognize the signals you will probably find that this is never the case.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on Pit Bulls and you have gained some additional knowledge so that you can be an ambassador for the breed.

Also see Pet360-Meeting Strange Dogs

This article was written exclusively for, by Suzanne Dean, ABCDT

Also see more advice and a very helpful Infograph at