When approaching a dog, there are a few things you should consider.
First, be aware that dogs are naturally experts at reading context clues and picking up on intent….you may think you’re not transmitting “bath and nail trimming coming up next!”, but you aren’t fooling your dog. Also, if the bulk of your approaches result in bad news and stressful times, your dog will likely develop and maintain a distaste for your approaches. If this is the case, don’t be surprised if the dog doesn’t have an open mind with regard to your approaches. It has learned to assume bad news and it will likely take quite a bit of of work on your part to convince it otherwise. Is there someone in your life who has this affect on you? Every time you talk to them, it’s one thing after another (with a side order of stress and guilt). There are many people on this planet who have no idea what kind of vibes and negative energy they put out and they wonder why others are short with them, why they weren’t invited, why others don’t stick around.
When approaching a dog, consider its space, your space, the space occupied by others around you (whether it by other humans or animals), the space that contains valuable and often limited resources. Don’t assume that an animal will or should be fine with your approach. Exercise impulse control on your part and hold yourself back. As you approach, pay attention to the dog’s body language. What information is it broadcasting? Notice when the dog feels your presence on the edge of the its personal space. If you push too fast or too hard (directly), the animal may feel the need to flee or become defensive. REMEMBER….it is they who decide how fast and how much….what is appropriate, what is acceptable, and what feels right in any given moment. The size of the space “occupied” by an animal will depend on many factors, most of which pertain to your intent, the value of the real estate they are occupying, any resources that are involved, and immediate environmental stressors or spook factors. Be sure to read the post “Changing the broadcast” for information on how to address, build, and improve a dog’s attitude about approaches.