Greeting a Dog

Written by Brittni Odland

February 9, 2022

As dog lovers, we love to meet and say “Hello” to every dog we see. However, we often unknowingly greet dogs the wrong way. We habitually set dogs up for failure with our over-excited, over-bearing, rude (in doggy etiquette) greetings. Greeting the proper way can help with most behavior issues dogs have when it comes to meeting new people or even old friends. Read on to learn how to help with jumping, excited/submissive urination, and fear or anxiety with people.

Jumping

This is one of the most common, obvious, and annoying behavioral issues dogs demonstrate when it comes to greeting. One simple way to help this behavior for both owners and strangers is to ignore the excitement. Not the dog, the excited behavior. This is not meant to hurt their feelings, but to make sure it is understood they will not get attention or affection using excitement and invading our personal space. Uncontrolled excitement can also lead anxiety and frustration. We should be quiet and calm when approaching dogs that are excited. Wait until the dog has calmed down, then give affection in a calm manner, with little to no talking. Think of when two polite and well-behaved dogs meet each other. They approach and sniff each other quietly with no jumping or noise until they mutually agree to move on, socialize, or give cues to play.

Urination

Some dogs urinate when greeted. There are different causes for this including excessive excitement, fear, or submission. Fortunately, the best way to prevent this from happening is the same no matter what the cause; don’t talk to them and don’t initiate eye contact. Ignore the excitement or fear behavior until they are more comfortable. When you do approach or give attention, do it calmly to avoid sending them right back into the undesirable state. This simple step will go a long way in preventing unwanted urination when greeting.

Fear & Anxiety

A happy-go-lucky dog may jump on you. On the other hand, fearful dogs may run the opposite way, cower, bark, shut down in fear, or even show fear aggression as a response.  As much as we may want to talk to and pet them to show we mean no harm, this is often too much pressure for fearful dogs. They want time and space, and to not feel pressure to be touched. Not all fearful dogs will walk away when they don’t want to be approached. Some will shut down and freeze even if they are physically able to move away. If we approach or talk to a dog in this state they may urinate, growl, bark, or snap/bite. This is clear communication they are not ready to be touched and these signals are often ignored.

Greeting with too much exuberance causes the dog to jump up.
Greet calmly, while ignoring the dog and not making eye contact.

A greeting with a dog should feel quiet and relaxed. Humans often encourage inappropriate behavior, many times unknowingly. The goal is to promote the correct behavior and set them up to succeed. This helps dogs understand what is expected of them in any situation, whether they are meeting a dog lover or someone who is unsure about or has a fear of dogs. It is our responsibility to be in control of our own dogs. By learning a little bit about canine communication and helping other humans recognize their cues, we help promote well behaved doggy citizens.

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