By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As a canine behavior specialist and trainer, I’ve recently noticed how, very often, people are unaware of how their dogs should initially and even more importantly, instinctively meet.

When we’re out with our dogs and meet someone who also has a dog on a leash, we quite often forget that although WE may understand the overall encounter, our dogs do not. Too often, we bring the dogs together way too soon and sometimes, in a way that is extremely unnatural for them.

Instead, we have to let nature takes its course and never force the issue. Never force dogs into face to face contact. This only serves to initiate a confrontation if they are not ready. It makes perfect sense since in the language of the canine, staring intently into the eyes of a stranger is certainly perceived as a challenge. So set them up to succeed and let them do what comes naturally and instinctively to them…let them sniff first.

A dog’s natural inclination when first meeting anyone, dog or human is to sniff. That’s where they receive all their information. They may turn sideways, allowing the other dog to receive the message that there is no threat. Their tails would then be in a neutral position without tension, anxiety or too much excitement, again promoting the concept of acceptance. With that type of positive body language, they relay and respond to each other in that moment that they can be friends.

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