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How to Greet a Dog

During a recent team discussion, many of our team members lamented that as children, they were not taught how to greet dogs safely. In fact, the very opposite: they were taught to stick out our hand to allow the dog to sniff them.

Now we recognize that, in doggy language, this is an invasive and rude gesture. The dog feels that their space is intruded and may feel threatened. Plus, dogs are super-smellers; they don’t need a hand in their face to know what you smell like. In a best-case scenario, the dog being greeted this way will tolerate the interaction, but will not enjoy it. In a worst-case scenario, the dog could (understandably) react fearfully and someone could get hurt.

The most important thing to remember when greeting a dog is to ask permission from the pet parent and the dog. If permission is granted from the owner, it is then best to:


  1. Position your body sideways. This is the least intimidating position for the dog.
  2. Invite the dog to come to you with open palms.
  3. Stay calm and quiet.
  4. Maintain minimal eye contact. While this may feel rude as a human, direct eye contact is threatening to dogs.
  5. Pet gently on the back or side, pausing after 3-5 seconds to see if the dog wants more.


In addition to a hand in their face, we should also avoid leaning over the dog, patting them on the head, holding them by the face, and hugging them. A dog tolerating – but not enjoying – these interactions may show signs of discomfort such as lip licking, panting, or turning away. These are early warning signs that the dog is stressed, and can quickly escalate to aggression if the warnings are not heeded.

Remember that it’s not just unfamiliar dogs that we should greet carefully. Our own furry family members deserve the same considerations too, even if we trust them and if they do not have a history of aggression. 

Teaching our children how to properly interact with dogs is a fantastic way to reinforce lessons about bodily consent. When we connect with our furry family members appropriately, we show them that we respect them and their boundaries. This helps to keep our whole family feeling safe and secure.


Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at danielle@NeighbourhoodPetClinic.com. Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.


Questions? Comments? Contact us today!

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