Thursday, April 26, 2012


Pet owners play an important role in dog interactions and should consider themselves safety monitors and gate-keepers of the peace. Whether you have more than one dog in your household, you frequent dog parks or pass other canines on walks with your dog, the ability to understand and read canine body language is an essential skill to have for any dog owner.

Meet and Greet

When dogs play together, one of the most pivotal moments is the greeting. This will determine whether or not the two dogs will get along successfully. Can your dog tell who wants to be their friend and who doesn't? Can you? Daycare and group play is so important for your dog’s development because it provides multiple playmates with different experiences and communication skills.  A dog who plays regularly with other dogs can tell from the greeting ritual if the dog they're meeting is a friend or foe.   

What is an appropriate greeting? An appropriate greeting is rotating from sniffing the face, to sniffing the rear, sometimes doing this continually, and in circles for 10 to even 30 seconds.  An inappropriate greeting would be for another dog to come straight on, staring your dog directly in the face with no intent to sniff. Also inappropriate would be if another dog put their head or paw over your dog's shoulder without having said hello first.  The worst scenario is when a dog doesn't want to be sniffed! When this happens, your dog has two options: to understand that they have enough self confidence not to feel threatened in the "inappropriate" scenario and to not reciprocate equally negative behavior. Your dog may feel the need to communicate back to this "rude" dog.  This is when the human may need to step in. 

What You Should Know 

For the safety of the dogs, it is vital to recognize what both dogs are "saying to each other." Common stress signals to watch for are:
-Licking their lips with their tongue over and over again
-The hair on their back is raised. This can either mean, “I'm really excited" or "I'm a little nervous." 
-Ears pinned back
-Tucked tail
-Stiff body 

What You Can Do

Does your dog tend to approach other dogs the wrong way? It is absolutely possible to work on that and teach your furry companion proper greeting behavior.
1. Reward your dog for good behavior.  A simple comment like good boy/girl with some cuddly scratches can make a difference as well as a little treat.  Dogs understand they get a yummy treat when they do the right thing, so they will continue to do it.
2.  Redirect if the first meeting isn't going well. Is one dog more comfortable than the other?  Call the dog that's more confident away so the nervous dog can have a minute to get their bearings and then you can try the meeting again.

The video below demonstrates an appropriate greeting between Livvy (brown) and Hannah (brindle).While we don't reccommend having strange dogs meet on-leash, it is important to give you the right knowledge since this event is unavoidable. 

What was done right?
-Loose leashes by the two handlers (if the leash is tight this can sometimes cause an unwanted or unnatural repsonse from a dog because they are restrained)
-Relaxed and wiggly body language from both and alot of appropriate sniffing.
-Livvy, the older dog decided to end the greeting ritual first by going around mom's back, Hannah, who is still very young, read this "cut-off" signal perfectly and decided that she was done sniffing too. Hannah comes to daycare twice a week and practices these greeting skills on a regular basis. Livvy is owned by our daycare manager and assists with evaluating new dogs to join our daycare crew.

Well managed groups or play overseen by a person that understands canine body language and interactions can help a dog improve their communication skills and gain confidence. All of the daycare staff at Morris K9 Campus are trained in this skill  in order to ensure the safety of every pet and their success in the world of canine communication.


  1. Thanks for the very informative and interesting post!

    Stop by for a visit.

    Flynnah & Roxy xx