You may remember that I mentioned in a previous post, (Puppy Training 101: When should you start training your puppy?) that I’ve been doing a little bit of pet sitting lately.
I signed up to Pawshake – an Australian pet sitting site – earlier this year in the hopes of meeting and hanging out with some new, and inevitably awesome, pets. Well, it’s now October and I’m pretty chuffed to call myself a pet sitting pro! Okay … not quite, but I’m definitely having a lot of fun.
And you know what I’ve discovered? Having the opportunity to meet so many new pets is a great way to develop your rapport-building skills! Because while I’m totally that annoying person that approaches somebody and talks to their pet instead of them, I’ve always allowed my excitement to overwhelm my ‘listening’ skills with pets.
I know, I know, pets can’t talk. At least not in a way that us silly humans can understand.
How pets communicate
But that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate with us. In fact, I’d say that pets are even better communicators than we are. By a landslide.
Because non-verbal communication (like body language) makes up over 55% of our (human) communication. And only 7% of communication is actual words spoken.
Which is why canine, feline and equine body language is a huge passion of mine (and one that I look forward to exploring in more detail with you in the future): because it’s so often ignored and/or misunderstood.
But it’s when we start listening to these non-verbal signals that we really understand and appreciate the emotional complexity of our pets and the animals we come in contact with.
Which brings me to the point of this piece: how to instantly connect with any animal you come in contact with.
So, with that in mind, here are a few short and sweet tips you can keep up your sleeve to help you build rapport with new pets.
Six ways to build rapport with new pets
- Ask permission. Before you even think of approaching a strange animal, check with the pet’s parent that it’s okay for you to come over and say hello and/or touch the pet. Some pets aren’t good with humans and it’s our duty to respect their space. Checking in with the pet’s humans will also give the pet a chance to quietly check you out and suss out your vibe.
- Approach quietly. Shrieking, racing forward and making big movements with your hands is only going to confuse and frighten a new pet. Instead, approach them calmly and quietly. It may not sound like a big deal, but it’s a great way to build confidence and help the new pet feel safe and comfortable.
- Get down on their level. If you’re meeting a smaller pet like a dog or cat, keep in mind that you will appear very large to them. Make yourself as unassuming and non-threatening as possible by crouching down and meeting them on their level.
- Give them time to sniff you. Animals can’t ask us what our intentions are, but they can figure out a lot from the way we smell. Giving a strange pet the chance to sniff your hand or leg is a great way to help them get comfortable around you and build rapport with new pets.
- Don’t force yourself on them. I know that they’re adorable and you just want to squeeze them, but please don’t. Wait for them to come to you and initiate contact.
- Breathe. Animals are incredibly aware of our body language, even if we aren’t aware of theirs.* Rapid, shallow breathing will stress them out as much as it stresses you out. To build rapport with new pets, aim for deep, steady and conscious breathing. Meditative breathing is perfect for this.
What about you? How do you build rapport with new pets you’ve just met? Drop me a comment to share and care the pet intel!
Like this article? Stay tuned, because there are loads more animal body language features coming soon!
*Fun fact: Did you know that horses mimic our – and the animals around them – breathing patterns? It’s part of their herd mentality and helps them to assess risk.
Disclaimer: Please consult your trusted vet or holistic animal health expert before making any changes to your pet’s diet or lifestyle. While I aim to offer well-researched and balanced articles, I am by no means as well-informed as your veterinarian. Please use your own inner guidance and the wisdom of the pro’s when making decisions regarding your pet’s wellbeing.