As you’ve already figured out, every dog has his own personality and quirks. Some are gregarious and outgoing, others are a little more relaxed or even shy. This is why there is no such thing as a universal greeting. Every dog will greet other dogs differently. However, there are some social rules that most dogs observe to avoid conflict. But like us humans, there are those dogs who just have no manners! Understanding these rules helps you to show Lucky the best way to make friends.
The approach sets the tone for the meeting. Dogs may approach other dogs in a variety of ways. Confident, playful dogs might bound over to a new dog, tail wagging with playful enthusiasm. Shy or anxious dogs typically allow other dogs to approach them. Conflict only tends to occur when one dog fails to observe the body language signals given by the other dog.
When dogs meet, there is an ebb and flow to the process. They approach, then withdraw. This is how they relieve the pressure of the situation. Much like humans, dogs sometimes find meeting new members of the species a little stressful. Dogs have their own version of “Hey, great meeting you. I’m just going to grab a drink and I’ll talk to you later.”
Body language is the most important element of the greeting. In a perfect world, dogs would be calm and relaxed when greeting other dogs, but that’s not always the way it happens. The ideal greeting sees both dogs slowly approaching each other, tail wagging, body relaxed with an alert, interested expression. Some dogs will tense up when approached, sometimes cowering if nervous. Sensitive dogs will recognize this and behave accordingly, socially inept dogs will continue to dive paws first into the greeting. This is where tension occurs. When overseeing a greeting, observe the body language of both dogs. Use the leash to guide your dog away if he’s nervous or is ignoring the nerves of the other dog.
Breaking the Ice
When we greet people, we make small talk -- “So, where are you from?” The canine version of breaking the ice is to sniff the other dog. They find out a lot more this way than we do making idle chit chat. Sniffing is a standard greeting ritual.
Once the ice is broken, the dogs will play, provided they like each other. Much like us humans, dogs don’t always get along. But if they do, they’re hearty and sincere about it. “Hey, you smell fine, you’re not freaking me out, let’s play!” To initiate play, dogs bark, growl, run and “bow.” These are all signs that the greeting has gone excellently.
By Simon Foden
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.