I pet-sit on a regular basis, and for the first meet and greet I always do my best to stay calm, and not make the first meeting a super crazy-happy event. A "blind sniff" (saying "hi" from the side, no head on eye contact, sometimes crouching down to be more on their level) is how I prefer to say hello for the first time. However, I've learned that it can be more important to try and take cues from how the owner is acting, than focusing on the first interaction with the dog, specifically.
- If the owner seems like they want me to be a little more cuddly with their dog (a bit more than a calm "hello" and an ear scratch), I engage with the dog a bit more (as long as the dog is being polite to me).
- If the owner seems more pent up, and a little nervous about their dog's behavior, I generally take the "ignore" approach, after a quiet hello.
- If the dog is acting up, and the owner is actively correcting them, I mimic the owners correction when appropriate (after okaying it with the owner). This has mostly happened to me with dogs who jump on people as a hello, or dogs who get mouthy when excited. I will ignore or give a correction as the situation warrants.
Being calm and fair when interacting with the dogs will go a long way to you being recognized as top banana in a multi-dog household. If you're not very familiar with the dogs, definitely ask the owners for any insight into the dogs' pecking order, this can be invaluable around dinner time or with any toys. (multi dog households are much more challenging to "sit" for than a single-dog home!)
Dutchess Lena of Black Lake RATI (Keeshond, 10 yrs)
“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.”
― Dean Koontz