More greetings

My boy Luke huffs; it is the best way I can describe it. It is a greeting behavior that he displays to people he likes. I have not seen another dog do this but I'm sure that they are out there. This huffing behavior started at a very young age as an open mouth greeting. He also does it when he is very happy; if that mouth opens up you know whatever is going on is to his liking. Yesterday he went over to my son who was on the couch; he dug his head into him thoroughly enjoying a snuggle. From the side you could see his mouth open and you know right away that he is loving every minute of this.

Open mouth greetings can be disconcerting to some; especially when added to a highly reactive dog. This means that not only is the mouth open but chances are that the dog is jumping as well. Luke has nailed several people in the face with his open mouth in his younger years which was a problem. He has since learned to control his jumping and saves it strictly for those he is head over heels for. And these people don't seem to mind being smacked in the face once in a while; all for love.

About a year ago I was watching a documentary on tigers. The guy that was in with the tigers was explaining that tigers chuff. A chuff is a sound tigers make to say hello to each other. They also make this sound just to tell you they're in a good mood. Visually; it looked like what Luke does but when I took a closer look, a tigers chuff is more of a universal tiger communication. A chuff seems to be more related to a sound than an action.

When Luke huffs, his mouth is held open in a relaxed manner. His lips are pulled down almost over his teeth and his tongue is pulled up from the back. His breathing is heavy and very audible. This is a clear communication of happiness. The rest of his body concurs that this is a positive canine behavior. Often when he is huffing he is also rubbing up against whoever the huffing is directed at. His head is held to the side and there is soft eye contact. We have come to enjoy this communication as it is a very pleasurable experience for both Luke and for us.

Anyone who knows Luke knows that receiving the open mouth huffing is a good thing. Each dog is an individual and although there are many universal canine body behaviors; some are more of an individual style. These if you do not understand them can be quite confusing. That is why it is imperative to watch the entire package, body, ears, tail and eyes and not just one factor of a behavior.

Another greeting behavior is the bow; my poodles are huge bowers, especially Luke. But all of my dogs do it and they often all do it at the same time which is very cute to witness. It is typically reserved for when I return from an outing but again Luke will throw me a bow whenever he feels like my attention has been directed his way. He will also stay in a bow position if I start rubbing him and has been known to hold this stance for a several minutes. He has obviously learned that humans find this to be a good thing.

The greeting bow differs from a play bow in that it is more a stretch type bow behavior. The play bow tends to be a faster movement; front down, butt up quickly and often bouncy. The greeting bow is more prolonged; a stretching process which involves the neck and head stretching out and often turned to the side. Luke likes to put his feet on my feet and dig his nails in; not so enjoyable so I am always aware of his big feet when he greets me. A play bow is usually at a distance; ready to tear away if it is accepted by the dog or person it is being sent to.

Then there is the crotch sniff; not so people friendly but a very natural behavior for dogs. Often when people are out with their dog they meet another dog on a walk. They may want to say hello but as soon as they go in for a sniff the owner will briskly pull their dog away. "How rude" they say to their dog; that isn't nice. Well; it is actually not rude and it is what dogs do, of course their are dogs who do it too much and then we must intervene. Jessie is very into sniffing; although she draws the line if anyone tries to sniff her. She has a very long greeting process before another dog is ever given the chance to sniff her butt and if they try they usually don't try again for a while.

Any way a dog delivers a greeting to their owner is always a great one; there isn't much better than being greeted at the door by a smiling canine face.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    My Rat Terrier-Chihuahua will sneeze or chuff at me and I've taken to chuffing back at him. He seems to like it because he gets more excited and chugs all the more back at me. The other two observe this exchange and emulate as well.


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