4 min read


Why Do Dogs Bow



4 min read


Why Do Dogs Bow




You're in the park with your dog, and he begins running around, happily playing with you, when another animal approaches. They begin to play with each other, and your dog takes a position. His paws dig into the ground and the front of his body and head drop to the floor, while his back region lifts high in the air. He looks at the animal he is playing with, and then he looks at you. It is as if he is bowing down; yet, this stance is not just a bow but a stance that means something. Understanding the meaning of this stance can help you better communicate with your dog on a daily basis. 

The Root of the Behavior

The act of bowing may seem a bit odd, but it is actually a friendly pose that dogs use when they are about to play with another animal. Whether the animal bowing is big or small does not matter, as either animal can perform the act in this friendly ritual between two dogs. At first, dogs may not know how to respond and they may not know what bowing actually means if they have not been socialized. But soon enough, your dog will realize what this greeting is. This communication is not meant to be threatening at all, but instead is a happy way of greeting the person or animal that is in front of your dog. When your dog bows, it will also show you that your dog is enjoying the play that they are engaging in with another dog, even if it seems rough. If you dog is somehow not enjoying their playtime with another, they will not bow but may try to get away from the play. Although bowing is mainly used when two dogs are playing, there are also other reasons for it. When your dog gets up from taking a long nap or when he approaches you, he may also bow for you, instead of for another animal. This is their way of happily greeting you and telling you that they are here for you and ready to bond with you in any way, whether that is through play or just hanging out. If you are somehow worried that your dog is upset or if their play has a negative intention, look for the pose of bowing and you will know their intention. This greeting is a universal way for dogs to show that they are happy and ready to play regardless of what it may feel like. 

Need advice about your pet's health?

Get answers fast from a veterinary professional 24/7 in the Wag! App.

Get Vet Chat

Encouraging the Behavior

Bowing is an action that animals will do on their own, without any encouragement needed. It is a part of how they are and it is ingrained into their being. Whether they are doing it when they are playing or when greeting you, it should be encouraged and allowed. Bowing is simply a way that your animal expresses that they are happy and ready to be with you or with another animal, in a playful manner. It is not something that should be stopped at all because it is a part of your dog’s happiness. When you greet someone, whether that be a person or an animal, you show love and happiness towards them. Bowing is a way that animals can show that to another in their own way. If you take that away from them, you may be taking away a vital part of their being. You can encourage your dog to bow by showing your happiness and love towards them when you see their bow. This shows that you are returning the greeting that they are giving you. When your dog is playing with another, you can also encourage them both to play, as their stance of bowing is showing you as well as the other animal they are playing with a loving intention. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

If your dog willingly bows around you, it is suggested that you acknowledge their presence and say hello to them, greeting them in a loving way. This will help your dog know that you see their desire to play and be with you, and you feel the same way. It may also be wise to find a way to show your dog a greeting that means something similar so there is reciprocal communication. If may also be smart to socialize your dog with others so they may learn to use the stance of bowing more often and exercise their happiness through play, when it is present.


From the time dogs are puppies to the time that they get old, they love to play and socialize with others for their own fun. Whether you decide to hang out with your dog or let them play with you or another, bowing should be acknowledged and allowed because it is a way for your dog to show their fun-loving attitude in an expressive way. 

By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze

Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

What do you think?

Wag! Specialist
Need to upgrade your pet's leash?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.