Stop Kissing and Smell the Roses – Human Greetings Seen through a Dog’s Eye

When it comes to the greeting behavior of dogs, information abounds from the human perspective on how our dogs should behave when greeting both humans, and other animals. However, not many have thought to ask our dogs their opinion of our greeting rituals. So I set out to interview my 8 year old Australian Shepherd, Gavin, and get his opinions on some of our human greetings.

Kevin: Let’s start with the traditional human handshake; tell us what you think of that.

Gavin: We see this as being closet in form and meaning to our traditional butt sniff. It seems like it conveys a lot of information. A strong handshake is like a good, thorough, butt sniff; “Hello, this is who I am, I am interested in you.” A weak handshake is like our cursory butt sniff; “Yeah, I see you, got better things to do.”

Kevin: Let’s move on to the hug.

Gavin: To be honest it scares the crap out of us, we really don’t understand it. I mean where is the respect for personal space? When we invade each other’s space like that, one of two things happens. Either one of us runs away, or there is a fight. There are some of us that put up with hugs from humans, but for the most part we prefer not to be strangled thank you. This happens to be the favorite form of greeting practiced by humans who utter the phrase “Oh dogs just love me!” Guess what? We don’t!

Kevin: What’s your opinion on the European cheek kiss?

Gavin: We feel the same about the cheek kiss as you do about the butt sniff; it embarrasses us and makes us roll our eyes; especially when you make that mwahh, mwahh kissy noise with it. I mean not to harp on the subject but everyone likes to be told they are interesting, and nothing says “you’re interesting” better than a nice long butt sniff!

Kevin: Finally, tell me what you think about dap or the high five?

Gavin: This is a very interesting one for us to watch; it reminds us a lot of play bows. Just like with us, there are some very intricate and ornate ones, and some that are simple and understated. This is also one of those areas where the greeting must match the person. I mean watching a middle aged white guy give complicated dap, is like watching a Basset Hound give the play bow of a Border Collie.  


No animals were harmed in the making of this article. Except for the chicken used to make the McNuggets that were part of the compensatory package that Gavin received. Kevin has not been compensated in any way for this article; however virtual scratches of the ego are both welcomed and appreciated. The authors make no specific claims as to the acceptability of butt sniffs as a human form of greeting and are not responsible for any injuries received as a result of practicing this behavior.

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