Say Hello (in Dog Language)

Video Say Hello (in Dog Language)

by Griffin & Mariana Mekelburg, LARPBO Trainers (Dec 09 2015)

Greeting someone is a simple task to most humans, but what about greeting for our dogs? There may be more to it than you think. Say you are on a walk with your dog, and coming up is a neighbor with their own dog. You want your pup to be a good citizen and politely say “hello” to their fellow canine. But what does good dog etiquette look like? Since they can’t “high-five”, they do things quite different from us humans, and we can help our companions always have a good greeting with a few tips.

Ask Before You Greet

First thing is to look at the other dog and human, ask the person if their dog is friendly. If they say no, politely let them go by giving them space. Do not greet a dog when their handler is nervous — a nervous owner is a nervous canine! If they say their dog is indeed friendly, still watch for any signs of distress in their dog. As you approach, demeanor in both dogs may change, so always have your eyes open.

Keep an Eye On Your Dog

The signs of distress will manifest similarly in both dogs, so tip two is to keep an eye on your dog. You want to watch for any signs of distress, their position in relation to you (leading the person), and tension in the leash. Signs of distress will be things like odd whining or barking, a tucked tail, staring the other dog down, lunging, hackles up (fur on the back) and any odd behaviors and postures that are unusual to your dog.

Your dog’s’ body posture will tell you everything about his/her level of comfort with the situation. If they’re bowing and tail wagging, that is a happy pup. If they’re stiff, posturing and staring the other dog down, that is a pup in distress. If either dog is showing signs of distress/discomfort, calmly pull your dog out of the situation by giving them leash tugs to get their attention back to you. Once they look at you, reward and carry on.

Tension in the Leash

Your dog should be next to you until they are ready to meet the other dog. And even then, make sure they do not yank. Keep a nice loose leash as you approach and greet — a tight leash will create tension in your dog, which can trigger stress and make them reactive. If your dog pulls to give a friendly sniff make sure to give them slack on the leash. Keeping a loose leash will keep them stress-free and happy while meeting the other dog.

Good Greeting Signs

When close enough, the dogs will greet each other. A good greeting would be the dogs walking up to each other, sniffing, and ending at sniffing each other’s behinds. After the butt-sniff — this is the dog handshake — they should be friendly to play. Or you may call them and they should continue calmly on their walk with you.

Warning Signs

When the dogs first approach, they should not rush the face or stiffen, either of these is a bad sign and you can either redirect your dog’s attention and try to re-greet or calmly pull your dog out of the situation with leash tugs.

Do not let either dog mount the other.

Do not panic, just pull your dog out of the situation.

If you and the other handler are comfortable after a reset, let them re-greet.


To reiterate, a good greeting is not just on the dog. To be successful you need to keep an eye on both dogs for any signs of distress during the greeting, let the dogs have slack in the leash, and let the dogs “handshake” with a good ol’ butt-sniffin’. If you see any distress in either dog, that is a sign to pull your dog out of the situation in a calm manner.

Keep you and your dog safe and social, and go out there to greet some fellow social canines!

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