There are a lot of variables to consider when meeting a dog for the first time. Some you can control. Some you can’t. One rule of thumb: If an introduction isn’t going well, don’t force it.
What you can control
Location, location, location
Find a neutral, third place for the introduction. If you will be sitting a dog in his home, start there and walk to the dog’s home with the owner. That way, when you enter the dog’s home for the first time you won’t be a stranger.
Think like a dog
Smell is a big part of dog introduction. That’s why they go straight for each other’s rear ends. You can take a more dignified route. Offer the dog the back of your hand for an introductory sniff.
Read the body language
A dog who is comfortable being petted will let you know. The tail will wag. The dog will approach you for more attention. Understand the six key states of dog body language: neutral and relaxed; alert and focused; playful; fearful; dominant and aggressive; and submissive.
Top or side?
Many people immediately try to pet a dog’s head or ears. That can block a dog’s field of vision—not to mention it’s closer to his teeth. Instead make initial contact by petting the side or the chest. A dog interested in more attention will let you know and approach with more tail wagging or even some licks or kisses.
What you can’t control
Some animals have had rough lives before they were adopted. They might be skittish around cars. They might be intimidated by men. The owner might be able to provide some background—or let you know if treats can motivate the dog.
Some dogs take a while to warm up to strangers, and even good dogs can have bad days. When you’re with the owner, engage the dog in an activity he likes, even if it’s just walking. He can get to know you that way, too.
More in: A Field Guide to Pet Sitting
So you’re interested in pet sitting? Or maybe you want to be an even better sitter. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled the collective knowledge of our Rover sitters and staffers to create this helpful guide. From great introductions to bad behavior, this guide is packed with answers to some common questions—and few you probably wouldn’t have even thought to ask.
Chapter 1: Meeting the dog for the first time