How Do Dogs Say Hello? The Dog Language Guide

two dogs sniffing each other

The way dogs say hello is with the classic booty sniff. As odd as it may seem, this is how they exchange information. If the two dogs already know each other, they typically say hello by sniffing each other’s snouts and playing.

Dogs are very social animals. A lot of their communication is done through gestures, body language, and smell. 

We’ve all watched dogs meet and very quickly size each other up. They know immediately whether this is going to be their new best friend or if they’re going to be enemies. 

There is so much information exchanged when dogs first say hello, and it all happens within a matter of seconds. 

The way dogs say hello to a new dog differs from how they greet an old friend. You, as the owner, also play a significant role in how your dog behaves during these interactions, so if your dog doesn’t have the best etiquette, we have some tips to help you improve on that. 

How Do Dogs Say Hello to Other Dogs?

The way dogs say hello to new friends is much different than how they say hello to old friends. The way in which dogs greet each other all depends on their comfort level with the other dog.

New Friends

This is the typical butt sniff everyone is familiar with. Dogs want to smell each other to learn who this new dog is, where they come from, and several other facts that us humans couldn’t pick up from a scent. 

Dogs rely so much on their sense of smell for understanding the world around them, it’s no wonder this is their primary way of saying hello when they meet a new dog.

Dogs meeting for the first time will rarely approach each other head-on. They will either circle or come up to the other from the side. This is a less direct or aggressive approach. Most male dogs will then go straight for smelling the back end of their new friend, while female dogs tend to be interested in the head and nose first.

Most dogs say hello fairly quickly. The whole interaction usually takes less than 10 seconds. Within the first 10 seconds, your dog has already learned the gender, age, and health of this new dog, as well as whether they are neutered (or spayed) or intact. 

After this short greeting, most dogs continue on their way. Rarely do they decide to engage in play.

Old Friends

If your dog has a regular play date with a friend, or at least a companion that he sees semi-regularly, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t have the same sort of hello. 

At this point in their relationship, these two dogs are good friends, and rather than having to take the time to figure each other out, they can get down to the playing. They usually show their excitement to see each other again and play immediately.

Because of this different interaction between dogs that are comfortable with one another, young puppies must be exposed to many new dogs while they are learning proper behavior. 

Often, if a puppy only learns to interact with “old friends,” they might approach every dog with enthusiasm and energy as if he’s ready to play before they even say hello. 

This can be off-putting for other dogs and can even be seen as aggressive if your puppy runs directly up to a new dog without taking the time to greet them. 

The last thing you want is for another dog to become frightened and reactive just because your puppy is excited and wants to play.

Not All Dogs Are Interested in Saying Hello

Some dogs might have no interest in greeting your pooch. And that’s OK. 

A greeting between dogs is often more one-sided. There is usually one dog that initiates the interaction, and the other party is more indifferent. 

As long as both dogs behave politely, this isn’t much of an issue since the greeting won’t last long. 

Be sure to watch both of their body languages. Not all dogs have learned the appropriate response in these situations.

Tips for Good Dog Greeting Etiquette

So how do you help your dog have the best interaction when saying hello to a new dog? Here are some tips you can follow to make it a positive experience for everyone.

Ask First

If you don’t know the other person or their dog, you don’t know how they’ll react. Maybe they’re working on greeting other dogs nicely and still have some issues to fix, or perhaps they’re an old pro. 

Either way, it’s always best to ask first. Most of the time, you’ll get a happy yes in response, and your dogs can then say hello.

If the other person says no, let them pass with plenty of space. Don’t crowd them and don’t give your dog too much freedom on his leash to go investigate. Keep moving in the opposite direction because stopping and waiting for them to pass will prolong the potentially negative situation.

Watch The Body Language of Both Dogs

If either dog appears to be uncomfortable, scared, or aggressive, keep walking. Dogs are very perceptive. You can bet that if you’ve noticed the tension, so have the dogs. 

Some dogs just don’t get along, just like people with clashing personalities. Rather than trying to force it, it’s best to acknowledge the bad vibes and move on.

Signs to look out for are tail tucked between the legs, stiff posture, staring down the other dog, or having their hackles up. If you see any of this behavior, take a cue from your dog and keep moving. 

Again, leave plenty of space between you and the other dog to avoid making anyone feel confined or threatened. 

Other more obvious signs that you should not try to say hello to that particular dog are lunging and barking. 

Even though these aren’t always signs of aggression (it could be a very playful young dog that hasn’t quite learned how to behave yet), they certainly indicate a lack of impulse control, which is also good to avoid if you don’t know the other dog.

Relax

Stay calm during the greeting, even if you know your dog has some issues that he’s working through. 

Your dog can (and wil)l pick up on your energy. If you are nervous about the interaction, your dog will be too. Use light, happy tones, and remember to breathe.

Many dog owners will unknowingly tighten the slack on their dog’s leash, which is the opposite of what you want to do during a greeting. 

This adds more tension to your dog’s demeanor and can cause him to be reactive. Keep the leash loose enough that your dog can comfortably say hello without giving him free rein to become a rude acquaintance.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Teach your dog to say hello politely. Practice greeting many new dogs. Allow them to smell each other quickly, but then continue walking in the opposite direction. Keep it upbeat and positive, and don’t linger too long. Then praise your dog for a job well done.

Train your dog to sniff and say hello to other dogs without showing any signs of aggression or dominance. 

Don’t allow it to turn into a big event or playtime with your dog trying to jump up at his new best friend or their owner. It can frighten the other dog if you let your dog jump up in play, even if it is harmless fun, this could cause the other dog to become reactive. Keep it short and sweet, then move on.

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