The Three-Second Rule

Dogs have their own personalities, just like us.  Let’s face it, we don’t always like everyone, so why do we expect our dogs to like every dog they meet?



Saying hello to a passing stranger is OK, but stopping to have a full-on conversation with a stranger can be a bit…uncomfortable.

Know your dog! Know your dog’s personality, what they can and cannot cope with. Your dog doesn’t need to say hello to everyone.


When you do feel that your dog is OK to meet and say hello to a dog, both owners must feel comfortable with this meeting taking place.

This is very important as not every dog will put up with all manners of dog’s. It’s basic dog owners etiquette. The same thing applies if you are unsure about a dog meeting your dog but the owner is insisting they must meet - make sure you are comfortable with this, to begin with. After all, you know your dog best!


Meet and greets should never occur with dogs coming face on with each other. Some dogs can become over-aroused and overexcited with meeting face on like this, and for some dog’s this can be intimidating and quite frankly, rude.


Take some time walking side by side with the other owner and their dog allowing some space between the dogs whilst keeping the leads as loose as possible. This gives you space, an easy escape if needs be and stops leads from getting tangled up and creating an issue.


The Three-Second Rule:


-Three seconds is the maximum amount of time an initial greeting should last. Three seconds is ‘one elephant, two elephants, three’ then space apart or walk away. 

Many owners make the mistake of waiting that bit longer after three and the meet and greet then turns unpleasant.

If either of the dogs is showing signs that they are not comfortable during the three seconds, turn and walk away earlier. Do not force them to stay in that situation for the full three seconds.


- When walking away on the third second, allow your dog to process the short interaction that has just happened. Wait until both dogs have ‘forgotten’ about each other and can be distracted, then bring them back together.


- Face on, eye to eye greetings are a recipe for disaster. If two dogs are intent on staring each other down, do not allow the meet to happen.


- Whilst allowing meets with your dog, keep an eye on what your dog is telling you. Remember they do not speak our language, therefore, we have to be watching their body language for their signs.


Tails  -If the tails are stiff, tucked up under or only the tip is wagging you may need to disengage earlier than the three seconds or keep a close eye during that time. 

Heads- If one dog is positioning their head over the top of the other dog’s head, interrupt the behaviour and walk away. This is rude manners and could be that the dog is going to be very pushy with the other dog. 

Mouths- If either dog is holding their breath and their jaw is tight walk away.


Here's what we're looking for:

  • Loose body movements

  • Relaxed body positions

  • Even, loose wagging tails

  • Relaxed facial features.



Allow each dog to take it in turn to have split-second sniffs of each other. Dogs can learn a lot of information about another dog from sniffing. The reason we recommend split-seconds is due to not every dog liking being sniffed for too long.

Believe it or not, it can be seen as rude - I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable with it.


After several little meets using the three-second rule, both owners are better equipped with the information whether or not each other's dogs are suitable to have a play with each other or not. If each dog will tolerate how the other dog is being.

These three-second meets are invaluable to the amount of information both dogs are giving each owner to help make the best decision for all involved.


In an ideal world, all greetings should take place like this, not just first time greets with new dogs. Dogs have off days; they can sometimes be in pain. The dog that your dog always plays with may not be overly comfortable one day.

So remember you have three seconds. Use those three seconds to watch what your dog is trying to tell you.


Written by Leanne McWade


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