To Greet or Not to Greet?
When it comes to greetings, communication is key.
Whether your dog is being greeted by another person or dog, or if you’re personally greeting another dog, several things need to be taken into consideration. Safety and the dogs’ comfort is the number one priority, regardless of how badly you or someone else wants to say hello. Keep the communication channels open and be intentional about your actions.
Approaching an Unfamiliar Dog
Before walking right up to a dog, asses the situation. Does the dog appear confident? Is the owner alert? If a greeting seems appropriate for all parties, go ahead and ask the owner for permission to approach their dog. If the owner says no, respect this by moving on and continuing to provide adequate space.
If the owner gives you permission to say hello to their dog, hold your hand out to the side and see if the dog is interested. If the dog approaches you happily, briefly pet the dogs chest or wherever they are comfortable. Avoid reaching over the head.
“If the owner gives you permission to say hello to their dog, hold your hand out to the side and see if the dog is interested.”
“It is okay to say no! You are your dog’s advocate.”
Practice stepping on your dog’s leash at first so that they physically cannot jump on strangers. Ask for a sit as strangers approach and reward your dog. Scatter treats on the floor for your dog to work on while a person comes.
Practice these skills at home extensively with a friend or family member before attempting with a true stranger.
We cover Polite Greetings in our Good Dog and Puppy classes if you need a little help!
Teaching Your Dog Polite Greetings
When others ask to approach your dog, you should also take a second to observe your dog. Is your dog interested in “saying hi” right now? Will your dog be well mannered and remain under control? It is okay to say no! You are your dog’s advocate.
Think about what behavior you’d like from your dog when others approach. Would you like your dog to abstain from jumping? Do you want them to sit nicely by your side? Or do you not care what they do, as long as they’re calm? Teach your dog your expectations!
Dog to Dog Greetings
Before ever letting your dog approach another dog on leash, ask for permission first! Just because your dog is friendly does not mean that the other one is!
If the other owner says yes, allow your dogs to walk up to each other if they are calm. Pay close attention to both dogs’ body language cues.
If you see either dog freezing up, raising their hackles, tucking their tail, standing taller, making excessive eye contact with the other dog, or curling any lips, immediately remove your dog from the situation.
In a positive, healthy greeting, you should see two relaxed dogs with wiggly bodies on loose leashes, tails wagging while held at a moderate height, and tongues lolling to one side.
It’s best to keep all leashed greetings brief. As a general rule, count to 3 and then call your dog away!
“In a positive, healthy greeting, you should see two relaxed dogs with wiggly bodies on loose leashes, tails wagging while held at a moderate height, and tongues lolling to one side.”