Many of you have written me from time to time with unusual or interesting questions. Today I’d like to address one I’ve received several times, concerning etiquette, “When dogs meet one another, what is proper etiquette? Is it correct for them to immediately sniff butts or should there be some tail wagging and eye contact before intimacy? It all seems kind of rude to me.”
First, I need to remind my readers that what you may view as intimacy is nothing more than a handshake for us. Having said that, you must realize that from a dog’s perspective there is nothing remotely human about any of our behaviors or instincts, so that you should not make comparisons between the two.
Generally, dear reader, there is an initial quick visual observation made when meeting a new dog — and I do mean quick because we don’t form much of an opinion from a visual. We also are unaware of size differences, otherwise why would so many toy and miniature breeds select large dogs for their playmates? We note in an instance if a tail is wagging or frozen, if hair on the back is in a Mohawk or lying flat, and if there is a low growl or enthusiastic whining coming from the newcomer.
All of these attributes are noted within the space of five seconds, after which we, in one fluid motion, move to the rear and undercarriage of our potential friend. This is where we do our serious and in-depth assessment. Some canines completely dispense with the brief foreplay I just described in favor of the latter. Is that rude, uncouth behavior? No, I think not, given how quickly a potential friend can become a lethal enemy. For pugs it can be very difficult due to our limited reach. We have to negotiate this with skill and speed should we need to escape danger suddenly. I have, on occasion, had to stand up on my hind legs in order to reap the full benefits of the telling scent from a large dog. Now, due to my physical limitations, I must appear open, friendly, interested, and non-threatening (all qualities I loathe in most dogs).
So, I hope this answers the question for you, dear readers. It is not rude to skip the preliminaries, but taking the time to smell the roses, so to speak, is one of life’s unique pleasures.