When we’re walking down the street and we see a cute dog, it’s quite common for us to want to cuddle and pet them.

We are truly a nation of dog lovers, after all.

But rushing over to a dog like this can be seen as quite threatening, and very often puts the dog on edge.

Even if the dog isn’t moving away, they may be showing you more subtle signs that they’re uncomfortable, such as showing the whites of their eyes, holding their ears back, or yawning.

In some cases, it can even lead to aggression and the dog biting somebody.

To equate it to our human experience, it’s sort of like if we were trying to walk down a high street and every other passerby ran over to give us a hug.

It would likely feel anything from slightly uncomfortable to incredibly intimidating. If it happened enough, we would likely start to push them away and start yelling at them to keep their distance.

So, what should we do instead?

Northwich Guardian: Dog behaviourist Alyssa RalphDog behaviourist Alyssa Ralph (Image: Alyssa Ralph)

First, we should always ask the owner of the dog if it’s OK to approach them. If they say 'no', try not to take it personally and move on. If they say 'yes', however, then it’s time to dust off your dog communication skills.

When you approach, try to do it side on, rather than straight to the dog’s nose.

This is a much more friendly way to approach a dog. Then, you want to stop at least a metre away, and see if the dog shows any interest in you.

You don’t need to hold out your hand – the dog can smell you just fine from that distance.

If the dog isn’t interested and doesn’t come over to you, don’t force the interaction. By all means, have a conversation with the owner about how adorable their dog is, but don’t pester the dog themself. If the dog does come to you, then you can have a respectful cuddle.

Always be on the look out for signs the dog might be starting to feel uncomfortable and, every five-10 seconds, take your hand away and wait for the dog to re-engage contact with you. If they don’t, cuddle time is over!

Giving a dog choice in these interactions is absolutely fundamental to keeping everyone safe.

Remember, if you’re unsure what a dog is trying to say, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and give them plenty of space.