How To Teach Your Dog To Say Hi

The SAY HI command is a great tool for canine socialization since it encourages your dog to trust you.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Cynologist

SAY HI is a great command to teach any dog or puppy.  It communicates to them, “trust me enough to go ahead and step toward that object/dog/human, sniff for 1-2 seconds, and then come back to me”.   I know it doesn’t sound like a simple cue but know it is super handy if your dog knows it.

Since SAY HI is a controlled greeting, it relieves stress a dog may have when unsure about a person, object, or another dog.  Most unsure dogs will likely not step out toward a person. Rather the person comes into their space.  When your dog knows the command and knows what happens when you say SAY HI, it can help him cope with the fear, and he knows that the interaction will only be a second or two at the most.

Teaching Say HI

Start by teaching your dog  SAY HI with someone your dog knows and likes first. Use a family member or friend who your dog wants to approach.

  1. Stand with your dog in a sit at your side, facing out (towards the oncoming person; we do not want to surprise your dog).
  2. Point from your dog’s nose to the person.  At the same time, move your body in a sweeping motion toward the person.
  3. As you see your dog just about to step out to greet the person, announce “SAY HI.”
  4. Let the person give your dog a quick scratch (maybe a treat) for 1-2 seconds, and then have the person stand up straight and ignore your dog (so they are less exciting).
  5. Call your dog back to you with a “LET’s GO”.  You may need to use your leash a couple of times until your dog gets the idea.
  6. Once your dog is back at your side, give him loads of praise.

Once your dog has the SAY HI to people down, you can extend your SAY HI to dogs.  Use a neutral dog (dog is not terribly interested in or bothered by your dog) and have your dog sit before giving him the  SAY HI command. You still want to limit any on-leash greeting to 1-3 seconds to a controlled greeting.

Remember to use the commands in everyday situations, about 15 minutes a day, to keep your dog focused.

Other uses for the command

Here are some different ways to incorporate the SAY HI command.

When your dog is meeting something new, use the SAY HI command.

Point from your dog’s nose to the person, place, or thing you are introducing and SAY HI when your dog gets near or touches his nose to the person/object, Praise!!! Yeah! Good dog!  You can also use treats or a toy.

I’ll describe it with a vacuum, but you can use this with anything, new people, trash cans…

Place treats near the vacuum and tell your dog to SAY HI  You should touch the vacuum, acting very happy that it is not scary. When your dog gets near the vacuum, encourage your dog to investigate it! “What is it? SAY HI

Place the treats closer and closer, always encouraging your dog with upbeat voices and saying SAY HI until the treats are on the vacuum.  When your dog is comfortable with treats on the vacuum, start the process again with the treats farther away and the vacuum moving back and forth.  Then turn the vacuum on with short bursts and finally vacuum on and move back and forth.   Do this in short sessions with lots of Praise!!!

If at any time during socialization your dog is frightened, i.e., tail tucked, trying to run away, attempts to bite:

  • Do not coddle, pet, or tell your dog, “it’s ok.” Unknowingly you are praising the uncertainty.  Your dog will feel as though there is something to be unsure about, which will worsen the situation.
  • Back away from the situation until your dog is relaxed again
  • Start from this new distance to build your dog’s confidence
  • Gradually get closer to the stimuli


Your ultimate goal is for your dog to be comfortable and confident around stimuli that was previously scary for your dog without the use of treats, silly voices, or games.

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