The greeting stretch

I have read lots of articles about the basics of dog calming signals, and lots too about all the different play moves that dogs will try, but less about other, more everyday dog body language, like, “Hey ‘sup.”

I never really thought about it too much… I had read so many articles about calming signals that I guess I just assumed, “Whelp, that is how dogs talk. Just lip licks and yawns all day every day. Done deal.”

But then a few months ago I noticed that Betsy does something that definitely seemed like a body language communication I had never read about:

Whenever I came home, she’d sit calmly and stare at me as I opened the door and put my things down (aside: She is so zen whenever I come home but if one of our family members comes for a visit she just goes insane with hyper joy. Traitor.)

Once I finished getting organized, I’d make eye contact with her, smile, and say, “Hey Betsy!” She’d wag her tail, start walking towards me, then suddenly stop and let out this biiiig stretch before crossing the remaining gap between us and licking my face.

It wasn’t something I noticed right away because you see your dog stretch and you assume they are just getting up from a nap or whatever, but after awhile I realized that this was not a, “I need to stretch my sleepy muscles.” type of stretch. It was very predictable, and it seemed to be related to greeting me. I never saw her do it at any other time.

So I went to the google machine and yep! This is a thing! Some people call it a greeting stretch, other people call it a greeting bow, but it looks more like a stretch than a bow to me.

Maggie Stretching
Rose Stretches

Here’s a nice description of it from Canine Body Language, A Photographic Guide, which is where most people seem to have gotten their information about this stretch. I wish there were other sources to confirm, but all the same, I am a believer in the stretch!

The Greeting Stretch is a posture used only towards someone the dog likes and with whom he is comfortable. There is also a version of this where the dog leans forward and stretches his rear legs out behind him.

In the greeting stretch, you will see a relaxed ear carriage and squinty eyes. The dogs have a liquid, languid look about them.

“It is very flattering to have a dog greet you in this unrestrained, friendly and very respectful manner. This greeting acknowledges your personal space and is a request for the two of you to interact.”


20 comments: On The greeting stretch

  • Am wondering if the “play bow” body language a dog does is related to this…if not the same message…

    • Good Question!

      In my unprofessional/non-expert opinion: I’d say that while they might be related, they aren’t the exact same body-language wise so they definitely seem to have a slightly different meaning.

      The greeting stretch is much more slow and languid, usually done with squinting or half-closed eyes.

      A play bow is energetic, often done with dancing eyes and a wide open mouth!

      They’re both a friendly gesture though for sure 🙂

      • You are absolutely right I have observed my two beagles…husband and wife…. and every morning before I go to work they give me the the bow before or after I feed them!

  • I’ve been wondering about this for ages, thanks.
    My greyhound only does this to me and when I enter the room after a period of separation (even something like an hour).
    We often ‘take it in turns’ to bow to each other (well, I bend at the waist and put both hands on one knee or on my shins and then straighten up – try it with your dog and see if they reciprocate:) ). She then takes her turn and bows. We then have a fuss and repeat that 🙂
    My Saluki does something similar in that he will wait in the kitchen in what we call his “yoga dog” pose – usually if he’s waiting for his leash or asking for a bit of whatever you’re preparing.
    BTW, the boxer in your photos looks exactly like a boxer we had years back 🙂

  • I’ve only just noticed our dogs doing it to me! They do it to each other too it’s so gorgeous! ❤️

  • Found this post by googling the same thing you did, after wondering myself about the ‘greeting stretch’ my dog gives me! Thanks for posting 🙂

  • stray dogs do this to me LOL

  • “Bowing” people do to one another, a sign of greetings, respect, honor … Human & wolves (now dogs) became civilized together, maybe we learned bowing from them, or they from us, or maybe something we (us & dogs) collaborated on together. Like to think its the ladder.

    Every see when a human eats a messy sandwich (loaded philly cheese steak) while standing? How they stand leaning forward to keep themselves clean. Always reminds me how dogs poop… 😊

  • YUP, the streeettchh is for real !
    Both my dog and one of my cats do it.
    It is endearing to watch !
    I was curious about it and also wondered if this stretching
    and or lack of it has anything to do with any shyness…???…..
    though my dog, a Maltese, is very outgoing and affectionate towards the whole world !
    My ragdoll cat who is supposed to have the disposition of my dog,
    runs hot and cold with her affection but when it’s on she’s a floppy, loving lap cat.
    My shy cat does not do the stretch…but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad !

  • Thanks for sharing. I have encountered this with my dog many times. Guess he treat me like his ‘mamma’.

  • My dog actually stretches on me… like if I put her on my bed she will go to my shoulder stand up and stretch and look me dead in my face. Not sure if that’s the same but I always thought it was cute

  • My dog Bows to me EVERY TIME She approaches.. without fail. She approaches and Bows. even when iv been in the house all day.. EVERY TIME, SHE BOWS

  • I never thought much of it either until. I got my Hershey. He is Pomeranian/chihuahua mix. He does this quite often not just after not seeing me or me not being home but even if he is taking he usual nap somewhere and I happen to look at him and/or call him to come over he does it first. I always thought was a cute stretch to. My mom then got a purebred Pomeranian and she does it all the time but with more kind of a royal snootiness I guess you could say. When you call her she daintily trotts over and starts “the stretch bow” if I happen to look away or not keep my attention she stops ,starts over, will hesitate it until she is sure she has your full attention first. Smh. I looked poms up and turns out they very instantly favored by queen Victoria and had 35 at her time of death and many royal and famous people of those times had this pampered poof by their side. Anyways wondering if it’s possible this behavior could of been a habit kinda bred into them over the years???

  • I experienced this the other day (several times) while visiting with a dog that isn’t mine. A skittish, former rescue dog. When we first met, she wouldn’t come near me much unless I was in a submissive position. Gradually she’s displayed more trusting behavior. There’s another position that is similar. When the dog bows down with the front legs apart like it’s ready to tackle you that’s the, “I wanna play!”

  • If it’s about giving personal space before approaching then why do my dogs bow on top on my legs? Haha when I come home they stand on my legs and then bow or stretch

  • I wonder if there isn’t more to this stretch than just greeting. There seems sometimes to be an element of thankfulness to it as well. Whenever I get ready to go out the little guy wants to go along he follows me around then stretches when I get his leash. So, I wonder…..

    • Yep, my doodle does this “bow” every time I put her leash on her to take her outside. She walks up to the door (tail waggling), bows, then waits for me to put it on. it’s the sweetest thing. Before looking it up I too felt that she is conveying a sense of gratitude. It sounds a little odd, but it feels like her ultimate submissiveness and basically like she’s confirming I’m her master, but in a good and loving way. Make sense? Like, “you’re my master and I want you to be”. It’s a strange thing but it brings me a lot of joy when she does it. I can’t really explain well without it sounding weird as fuck. Lol

  • I know I notice is too I just googled this for that reason, I have a little tiny Chihuahua and she will let out a stretch right when I get really close to her or if I ask her to do something, I think it also has to do the sense of shyness

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