All Dogs Need Personal Space : How To Greet A Dog

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How To Approach and Pet a Dog

All Dogs Need Personal Space

All Dogs Deserve Space. Learn why all dogs need their personal space and how to properly greet a dog. #raisingyourpetsnaturally
All Dogs Deserve Space

This weekend, I went to a fun Cavalier King Charles Spaniel gathering. It’s always so much fun to meet other dog parents who are spending quality time with their dogs. Group dog events or gatherings ideally consist of dogs who are social and friendly with other people and dogs. This, however, does not mean that the dogs at the dog event don’t deserve the same courtesy as a dog you have not met before, and should be greeted the same way.

First, I will say that this group of Cavaliers and their doggie Moms and Dads are a wonderful group of people and dogs. There weren’t any issues, everyone had a fun day, and nothing went wrong – no dog fights, biting, etc. But it just reminds me to continue talking about dogs and their need of space, and what we can do as dog parents and dog lovers to help all dogs with their space needs.

Dog professionals often suggest you shouldn’t be anthropomorphic when trying to figure out what your dog is doing or communicating. Wikipedia defines anthropomorphism as the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. I get it – dogs are not humans. However, dogs do have emotions, and I believe we certainly can consider an action and reaction and run it through our own thought process on how we would feel if that happened to us.

So let’s consider our personal space in a few scenarios. Think about how you would react in these situations.

  • You are walking down the street and your best friend comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
  • You just were released from the hospital with 12 stitches on your chest and your friend comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
  • You are walking down the street and a person of the opposite sex you were introduced to five years ago comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
  • You are walking down the street and a person you do not know comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
A friendly greeting to some....
A friendly greeting to some….
The way your dog might view a hug.
The way your dog might view a hug.
Giving a dog space
Giving a dog space

As you can see from the few scenarios above, you are likely to respond differently to each situation, and you are likely to have different emotions attached to those responses. Now, think about how your child, spouse, or best friend would react to the situations above. I bet they would be different reactions. Ah, see? People have different ways of coping with situations, and have different comfort levels.

Everyone has a different-sized bubble of space they feel comfortable with, and the same holds true for our dogs. Some people and some dogs are extroverts and enjoy the fast-paced interactions of other people or dogs, while others need a little more space and time to warm up to a situation.

Just because your dog may not enjoy another dog or person rushing him, jumping at his face, or barking at him does not mean your dog is unfriendly, it just means your dog is normal and has normal emotions. So the next time you greet a dog, with or without your personal dog, remember to offer both dogs plenty of space and allow the more reserved dog to make the first move. If at any time a dog looks uncomfortable (read fearful dogs), back off. When in doubt, give more space.


What kind of bubble do YOU have? Tell me in the comments.

All Dogs Deserve Space. Learn why all dogs need their personal space and how to properly greet a dog. #raisingyourpetsnaturally
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46 thoughts on “All Dogs Need Personal Space : How To Greet A Dog

  1. This is a great post with awesome examples! I personally definitely enjoy my bubble space and would feel uncomfortable with all of those scenarios except the first one.

  2. GREAT post and important information. Just like people, different dogs have different space requirements but it’s not something we often think about. Humans, after all, are primates and touchy-feely is in our DNA. Dogs…not so much. *s*

  3. Great posts with lots of great examples! I think a lot of people forget personal space with dogs. It is one of those things we struggle with when it comes to neighborhood children as well!

    1. Thanks, Susan. Yes, kids should be taught early. I actually find that kids are more likely to give a dog space and ask before adults. Funny.

  4. Great post and thanks for the tips, a lot of people could use them! Poor Jack doesn’t get the personal space he needs. He’s a very cute Maltese, so naturally everybody comes over and wants to pet him. We’re sure he was abused in his previous home, and had/has confidence issues which we’ve been working on, successfully I might add. If I see he’s about to react I be sure and warn the approaching person to ignore him. They don’t always listen then try and pet him when he’s barking at them. I tell them to back off, but from now on I’m going to use the words “personal space.” That should get their attention.

  5. My dog approaches most dogs almost straight on which I’m led to understand is aggressive. I breath a sigh of relief when he relaxes and goes for the butt. I used to be embarrassed by that but now I’m relieved.

  6. Great post and I always tell the kids when they see a dog they do not know, ask first, put your hand out and then wait as some dogs react in different ways, Layla does not like dogs running up to her and she will walk off or give a little growl to warn them, and I forewarn people with puppies especially that she can be grumpy as an older dog, I always say rather be safe than sorry

  7. Oh my gosh. I hardly let anyone come up to my dogs and do anything anymore. Today we had a bunch of older people seek us out on a hike and ask to pet our dogs. I told them my dog was just a pup and still learning how to react to people and not to pet. He was barking at them. She did it anyway. Coming into my personal space bubble by reaching into my hammock where my pup and I were resting. Oh the hackles on my back went up!

  8. as an introvert human I totally get this. Luckily my boy is very much able to let people know what he thinks without being aggressive. He’s mastered the art of “talk to the but”.

  9. Theo has a giant bubble for strangers and he lets them know that before anyone can get close. While it is a little embarrassing, it keeps people from asking if they can pet him. My other dogs LOVE meeting new people, but are skittish around other dogs.

  10. The pictures viewing the different perceptions of humans and dogs were so perfect. Ruby actually has some separation anxiety and likes to be near us at all times. Sometimes it is me that needs personal space. LOL

  11. I am rather sociable and friendly. Kilo thinks most people and dogs are out to murder us both. I am always blocking people as he looks cute and friendly so they can’t resist him, but he gets terrified and will quickly turn to a nightmare.

  12. This is such an important message, great examples to help folks understand how various greetings can make people feel. It’s a great analogy. People so often come bounding up to my Husky to greet her, especially children. Many parents don’t get that a dog needs space and they don’t educated their children about it. Some people think I’m rude when I try to stop them in their tracks so I can put her in a sit and slowly do an intro. My dog is my first priority, so if they think I’m rude then so be it.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv them

  13. Great post with wonderful tips and examples – this is so much needed as many people just don’t understand that a little space, patience and respect for the dog/people will go a long way! Our pups, save one, have no bubble, but when we walk our group with the more fearful one, watch out, the entire group seems to need a bigger bubble! Very much appreciated!

  14. My bubble isn’t nearly as big as the bubble of both Sherm and Walter! I give them a wide area so they feel safe on walks and given they’re reactive we don’t greet other dogs. Great tips as I’ve had pet parents come up to me with no warning and even let kids run up!

  15. Thank goodness you are getting the word out about dogs and personal space. So many people end up getting bitten and it’s blamed on the dog. That personal space invasion can be very upsetting.

  16. Good info, I don’t think anthropomorphizing in this situation counts against trainer recommendations. The “bubble”, as you refer to it, isn’t unique to any one species. In fact, domestication is often defined in terms of the distance an animal will allow a human to approach by science.

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