A Puppy Leashed with a Harness

How to Approach a Puppy

December 14, 2021
By Jason Trainer

Meeting a New Puppy

Meeting a new puppy can be very exciting and a bit overwhelming. Not only for us but for the puppy as well. Keep in mind, a dog is considered a puppy for several months into its life – ranging from 9 to 15 months. If a meeting is handled incorrectly, you could harm your relationship with the puppy and potentially cause behaviour issues that will stay with the dog for its life. Therefore, it is important to understand the animal you are approaching, learn the signs of stress and know when to approach and when to leave the puppy alone.

What to Consider & How to Engage

You are about to create new habits and set boundaries with this puppy. Fight the urge to grab the puppy right away and shower it with snuggles and kisses. Every interaction with a dog is a learning and teaching opportunity.

Where Are You Meeting Your New Puppy?

The environment which you meet your new puppy will play a role in how you approach the situation. Take note of your surroundings and what could come into play.

At the Breeder:

Most breeders will hold on to their litters until the puppies are 8 – 10 weeks. Often, the litter will be accounted for before they are even born. New owners will most likely be given an opportunity to visit the litter and potentially choose which puppy they would prefer. This is often a very controlled meeting and generally a safe experience for you and the puppy. Look to the breeder to set boundaries and expectations.

At a Kennel or Humane Society:

A high stress area for most dogs. A scheduled appointment may be needed, and initial interactions will probably occur through some sort of gate/crate/kennel. Understanding the puppy’s previous situation (before it arrived at the kennel) will help in understanding its temperament. Keeping a very calm demeanor, although always suggested, is extremely important in high stress environments. Watch for signs of stress and aggression in the puppy and be ready to back off quickly to give the puppy space. This meeting, again, will most likely be structured and overseen by a trained staff member. Follow their lead on interactions and protocols.


There are many other situations where you may encounter a puppy. Such as on a farm, the street, or a friend whose dog just had a litter. Following the steps outlined below can help ease the situation and make for a better experience for all those involved.

How to Act When Meeting a New Puppy

Again, your environment is a key element, and you want to take in your surroundings and how the puppy you are approaching is feeling. Some of these suggestions may seem excessive and perhaps are not needed at all. With animals, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. An 8-week puppy and a 1-year-old puppy can react in very different ways. Keep in mind that dogs can be dangerous, and you should always proceed with caution.

Take Your Time:

Just like humans, dogs need to get to know who they are dealing with and may take time to warm up to you. Be patient. Do not rush up to the dog. Let the dog come to you to begin the interaction.

Body Language:

You do not want to be perceived as a threat. Turn your body slightly to the side and avoid eye contact until the dog is comfortable with you.  There is no need to hold out your hand, the puppy will approach and can smell you just fine.

Your Body Language:

Keep a calm, confident and low tone when speaking to the puppy. Do not use a high-pitched voice or start uttering random non-sense to the puppy.

Watch Your Tone:

There are many other situations where you may encounter a puppy. Such as on a farm, the street, or a friend whose dog just had a litter. Following the steps outlined below can help ease the situation and make for a better experience for all those involved.


After the dog has had time to assess you and move towards you, as long as their body language is positive, you can engage contact with the puppy. Best to start with pets to the back, move to the sides and then chest. Petting the head or neck could be seen as more of a threat and cause the puppy to react negatively. Save these types of pets for once you have established a positive connection with the puppy. Do not hug or constrain the puppy in anyway. This can be taken as trying to assert dominance and can turn a positive encounter into a negative one quickly. Do not kiss the puppy as this puts your face in danger and could be telling your dog that they are the dominant one in the relationship -setting a poor dynamic for future training and obedience.

Meeting Someone Else’s New Puppy

If this is a puppy who belongs to a friend, family, colleague, or anyone else that allows for a structured encounter at the appropriate time. Follow the guidelines laid out above. If it is a random person’s puppy – simply put, don’t meet them. You don’t know if the puppy is in training, aggressive or highly stressed out. It is most likely better for all those involved for you to admire the puppy from afar. If it is going to happen, ensure that you speak to the owner first and ask for permission and for any guidance on engaging with this person’s puppy. Following that, follow the guidelines discussed above.

The iTK9 Way

Like almost any sane human, we love puppies. What we love even more are happy and obedient family pets. This is why we offer puppy focused training programs and provide proper socialization structure for your dog as part of our programs. It is never too soon to start training. Contact us if you would like to set your puppy up for success with one of our board and train programs.

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