5 Tips To Saying “Hello!” for Parents and Children Greeting Dogs

  • By Monica
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We had the oppawtunity to interview one of our amazing Pawbassadors, Monica, who has two dalmatians, Orio & Quint. Monica is a Certified Training Partner with Karen Pryor Academy, a licensed Family Paws Parent Educator, and holds a position on the Board of Directors for Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She enjoys educating families and children on appropriate ways to interact and live with dogs so we sat down with her to get some tips on greeting dogs!

With many different public places becoming dog friendly, the likelihood you’ll run into a dog out and about is becoming more and more likely. We work on training our dogs to be friendly and polite, but we don’t take the time to teach ourselves and our children how to interact politely with dogs. In the end, it is not the dog’s responsibility to keep everyone safe, but the human’s. The first step to this is making sure we are saying hello correctly. Here are five tips to remember when saying “hello” to a dog you don’t know: 

  • - Assess the situation 
  • - Ask the owner before getting too close 
  • - Ask the dog 
  • - Avoid putting hands on the dog 
  • - The dog says, “No, thank you.”  

 Assess the situation 

 Is this dog in training or is this dog a working dog? You will find more and more people out and about with their dog working on training in public, but this may mean they don’t want their dog saying hello to people. The dog may actually be wary of people or the dog may be extremely enthusiastic and the owner just wants to work on their dog behaving around people without interacting. Do you really need to say hello to the dog? Assessing the body language of both the human and the dog will help you know if you should approach or not. 

Ask the owner before getting too close

You should teach your children to always ask you (the parent) if they can approach first. This can be a great time to teach children about dog body language. If you don’t think you should approach the dog, explain to your children why it might not be the best time to approach the dog. If you think you can approach, the next step is asking the owner if you can approach. You should ask the owner (with a bit of distance between you) in case the dog becomes scared or too excited. This gives the owner time to say yes or no. This also allows the dog space to move away if they are uncomfortable.

Ask the dog

If the owner says it is ok, now it is time to ask the dog if it is ok. Sometimes owners may think their dogs want to say hello, but the dog does not actually want to say hello. Inviting the dog over is a great way for the dog to initiate the greeting. Clapping your legs, saying “hello doggy”, is a great way to invite the dog over. You should allow the dog to move towards you rather than you moving towards the dog.

Putting hands on the dog

If the dog moves forward to say hello, you can start by petting the dog on the chest, lower neck, or sides of their body. Most dogs do not appreciate being pat on top of their heads and prefer a good neck, side, or butt scratch. Pet, Pet, Pause is a great way to make sure everyone is staying comfortable. Pet the dog for 3 seconds or so and then stop petting them for a second. Does the dog move away from you to take a break or do they continue to hang near you for more pets? This is a great way to make sure everyone is staying comfortable.

The dog says, “No, thank you.”

If you invite the dog over to say hello but they don’t move towards you, this is not an invitation for you to move towards the dog. This is the dog saying they do not want to interact with you. That is okay! If your child is expecting to say hello, this is a great time to explain to them that the dog doesn’t want to visit today and that’s ok. Instead, you can wave and say hello from a distance. Telling the owner they have a beautiful dog and you hope they have a lovely day is a great way to end the interaction. This helps keep everyone safe. 


  • Dog owners do not have to let everyone pet their dogs. It’s important to know that if someone says no, this is not a reflection on you or your children. There are many reasons they may not want you to say hello to their dog, and that needs to be respected. Try not to take offense. Hopefully these five tips will help you determine if you should say hi to a dog or not, and will keep everyone safe during the interaction. It can be just as fun to admire a dog from a distance!

About the Author    

Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP owns Family Fido LLC in Conway, South Carolina. Monica is a Certified Training Partner with Karen Pryor Academy, a licensed Family Paws Parent Educator, and holds a position on the Board of Directors for Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She enjoys educating families and children on appropriate ways to interact and live with dogs. Monica shares her house with her husband, Zachary Callahan, children Zoe (9) and Zac (7), and four dogs, Doc (Dalmatian), Disco (Windsprite), Orio (Dalmatian), and Quint (Dalmatian). Orio and Quint (@The.Hero.Dogs) are certified therapy dogs through ATD and enjoy teaching fire safety and appropriate greetings to children. Monica also actively participates in dog sports with her dogs including scent work, rally, conformation, lure coursing, and more. You can find out more about Family Fido and The Hero Dogs here: http://www.familyfidotraining.com.

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