How To Greet A Dog: Appropriate Eye Contact, Please Don’t Stare

How To Greet A Dog: Appropriate Eye Contact

Please Don’t Stare at Dogs

Dogs and people. Two species I work with on a daily basis. That’s right. Two DIFFERENT species. Sometimes these differences can get us into trouble if we don’t recognize them. Today I want to talk about eye contact.
Don’t Stare at Dogs

Dogs and people. Two species I work with on a daily basis. That’s right. Two DIFFERENT species. Sometimes these differences can get us into trouble if we don’t recognize them. Today I want to talk about eye contact. I did a quick Google search “how to politely greet a person” and here is the first site that came up. It came from Wikihow. The first tip: Walk straight up to the person confidently. If you recall in my last post, How to approach or not approach a person and their dog, you might remember that isn’t the recommended way to greet a dog. But back to eye contact. The second tip in the article how to greet a person: Make eye contact before greeting.

So how does eye contact relate to our dogs? Eye contact can be a threatening gesture to a dog. If someone is staring at a dog, he can feel challenged or threatened. In either instance, you are likely to make the dog uncomfortable. Direct, sustained eye contact can be very rude in a dog’s mind.

What kind of eye contact should you make with a dog? Keep your eyes light, relaxed, casually blink and don’t have extended eye contact. Look at the dog’s cheek area and then away.

What can you do to help your dog adjust to eye contact? Teach your dog a watch cue. Here is a sample on how I start this behavior. Don’t forget to have a soft face, eyes, and smile when teaching this to your dog. Remember, you want to be non-threatening.

  • Put a yummy treat to your dog’s nose, and slowly lure the treat to between your eyes. As soon as your dog looks at it/you say “yes!” followed by the treat.
  • Repeat for various repetitions and a variety of locations.
  • Start to add time (one second at a time) before saying “yes!”.
  • Continue with this level until you have 10 seconds of your dog looking at you before “yes!” and treating.

So remember, staring at a dog is not something a dog enjoys.


Does your dog know the watch/eye contact cue? Tell me in the comments.

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