How Children Greet Dogs

The proper way to teach children how to meet and greet your pet

One of my clients called me last month looking for assistance with her kindergarten students. She wanted to teach her classroom the proper way to meet and greet a dog. I was so excited to teach a child the proper way to meet and greet a dog. I can not tell you how many times a dog has snapped at a child because of improper greeting. My goal is to give that a child a positive experience with dogs and to help prevent those issues from happening.

I discuss the proper meet and greet with parents and children to help avoid potentially uncertain situations that could result in unpleasant behavior from dogs. It is important we communicate with dogs in a way that they understand.

It’s very important for children “and adults” to understand that dogs do not greet the same way as humans do. When humans greet it’s all about excitement (handshakes, hugs, laughs, etc.). Dogs greet in a calm manner.

If you notice, one dog will stop and stand still while the other dog smells. When that dog is done smelling they switch roles. Once they figure out who they are then they react. You usually will find that the dogs are okay with each other. My goal is to make sure that children and adults understand this process so they learn how to greet a dog without making them nervous. It is very important that children “and adults” approach dogs in a calm manner and let the dog smell them first.

Below is a guideline on how to properly meet and greet a dog:

  • The most important step is to ALWAYS ask the owner if you’re allowed to pet the dog.
  • If the owner says yes put your hand out and let the dog sniff your hand while making a half fist. Allow the dog to smell the knuckle part of your hand. If the dog does not sniff the hand the dog does not want to be pet.
  • Slowly pet the dog on the side of his face. Not the top of his head. Use very slow, gentle strokes.


  • Pet a dog while he’s asleep.
  • Run up to a dog screaming.
  • Pet or pull a dog’s tail.
  • Pull a dog’s hair.
  • Pet while he’s eating
  • Put your hands in a crate to pet a dog (A crate is the dog’s house)
  • Pet or hug from behind. Make sure the dog always gets a chance to sniff you first.