If you meet a dog in the street with their owner and you want to touch the dog you should do the following.
You should ask the dog’s owner whether you can touch her dog. The well-prepared dog owner should be carrying a dog food treat. She should respond to the stranger’s request to touch her dog by asking them to stand at a 45 degree angle to their dog and smile. They should also ask the stranger to say the word “friend” in a singalong tone which helps the dog to regard the meeting as pleasurable and friendly. Once the dog is more relaxed the dog’s owner should give the stranger a dog treat and ask them to toss the treat to their dog while continuing to look away at a 45-degree angle.
They should then let their dog go to the stranger rather than the stranger going to the dog first. After this the dog should be happy interacting with the stranger. It avoids canine fearfulness of strangers.
The looking away technique avoids the dog thinking that they have become a prey animal to a predator because predators don’t look away like that. They look directly at their prey animal.
This information comes from a dog behaviourist on Facebook and her name is Tamar Geller. She has an A-list set of clients including Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon. She says that walking up to a strange dog that you want to interact with and offering your hand to allow the dog to sniff it is a bad policy. It is liable to make the dog fearful. And dogs can be fearful of strangers. It is called the Sniff Test and it appears to be what people think is appropriate but it isn’t. It can make dogs feel cornered and threatened.
So there you have it. The best advice you can get on the Internet about how to greet a dog that you don’t know.
I have to mention cats briefly. I think the sniff test is a good one when you greet cat. In fact Jackson Galaxy recommends a version of it – the feline greeting nose touch. He calls it the Michelangelo Technique. You can read about it by clicking on this link.