As the weather warms up, there are more people getting outside and taking their pets with them. It’s hard to resist saying hi to the cute pup across the street. They look so furry and sweet, but they can also have a mean bite. It’s important to know how to meet a new dog while still staying safe.

Here are five steps to take when approaching a new pup:

  1. Ask the owner

You should always, always ask the owner of the dog if it’s okay to say hi. The owner knows their dog best and, even if the pup looks friendly, you need to give them an opportunity to say no. A dog could be uncomfortable around new people or maybe they just like to be left alone. No matter what, always respect the person that the dog is with and don’t approach if you haven’t been given permission.

  1. Let the dog make the first move

Running up to a dog can feel threatening for them. It’s best to keep a neutral stance and let them make the decision to interact or not.

  1. Let them sniff you

Sniffing helps a dog understand what is going on around them. Allow them time to investigate and make a decision about your interaction on their own. You should wait for the pup to approach you and sniff you rather than putting your hand in front of their face, which can feel aggressive.

  1. Move slowly and respect personal space

Pups are fun, but don’t get too excited when meeting a new one. You don’t know if the dog will want to play yet, so don’t make any sudden movements that might scare them. Show them that you’re not a threat by being respectful of their personal space and letting them control the interaction.

  1. Pay attention to body language

Body language is one of the biggest communicators that dogs have. If the pup you’re meeting has a wagging tail and is moving excitedly, they may be happy to see you and want to play. If you see teeth, a stiff tail or fur standing up, they may be uncomfortable or even aggressive. Pay attention and know when it’s time to back off.

If you have children, it’s especially important to know how to interact safely with animals. Kids often get over excited and don’t know how to approach respectfully. Teach them how to be respectful and attentive to animals so that everyone can have a positive experience and stay safe.