What dogs can teach us about etiquette

Our beloved Sammie

Sammie, our beloved 13 year old dog, died recently. We miss her terribly. Coming home is a constant reminder of her absence. When she was alive, as I got out of the car, I would hear her come downstairs to greet me, tail wagging, big grin on her face. As she became sick, she wouldn’t always get up, but I’d always hear her tail thump, thump, thumping on the floor when she heard me come in the door.

Missing her greetings made me realize just how much we can learn from dogs. Given proper training they really have perfect etiquette.

Always stand and greet people. You should always rise and greet people unless you are elderly, then you may stay seated during a social greeting or introduction. Whether I was gone for five minutes or five hours, like most dogs, Sammie would always get up and come to me wagging her tail, sometimes even squealing with delight.

Be nice to everyone. Sammie loved people. Her favorite activity was to lie in our front yard and greet anyone walking by. If someone stopped long enough to pet her, she would usually lean into them, loving the attention and letting them know how much she appreciated them.

Sammie had some quirks due to something happening in her past. She didn’t trust women with gray hair or young children. If others aren’t nice to us, it sometimes leaves a bad taste in our mouth for others of that ilk. But, despite Sam’s fear of those folks she never hurt anyone.

Be forgiving. I don’t think dogs possess an emotion for resentment. Even when I would get angry at Sam for the rare times she would disobey or be naughty, immediately afterwards she would come to me as happy and loving as always. She reminded me that if someone is unhappy with me, I should listen to what they have to say, try not to do it again or at least try to understand why they are angry and love them just as always.

Respect people’s wishes. Sammie was a lover and liked to lick those who would let her. I am not someone who likes dog licks no matter the canine. So, I simply told her “no lick” and she understood very quickly. She would have a lick fest with my husband, Eric, who was fine with it, but she always respected my desires by not licking me or others who said “no lick.”

Be courteous. Sammie had wonderful manners, and while I’d love to take credit for them she had many of them when we adopted her from the Shelter at age 7 or 9 months. When we would sit down to dinner, Sam would lie down in the living room and not bother us while we ate. She never begged. Even when we were having pizza and Eric would give her his crusts she would sit at a distance, keeping her eyes down and would patiently wait to be handed a crust.

She never jumped on people except when she was very excited to see someone she loved and then she’d sort of throw herself at you with her paws down. However, after a few nos, she learned not to do that.

She also never got on the furniture until we had a house sitter who encouraged her to get on the couch while taking care of her. After that Sam would get on the couch when we weren’t home. Darn house sitter.

Sam was also very respectful of our two cats. Some people might be surprised by that because Sam was a pitbull lab mix. But, she knew the cats ruled the roost. She would politely share a dish of tuna juice or some other leftover item with them. We have a few pictures of them sharing a plate of some yummy morsel.

Don’t complain. Sammie had bone cancer, which is a very painful and aggressive type of cancer. While she certainly had some rough times where we could tell she was in pain despite the pain killers, she carried on stoically. She would still wag her tail and nuzzle with us even at the very end.

Sammie endeared herself to many people because she was such a courteous, loving dog. Like Sam, dogs just want to please, so if they are given obedience training and get consistent reinforcement they will be well behaved. And a well behaved dog is like a courteous person – a joy to be around.

We miss Sam deeply. But we are sustained by the memories we have of her. She taught Eric and me to be better people.

Is there a special dog in your life who reminds you to be a better person? Are there elements of etiquette your dog teaches you?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Andrea on July 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you for the terrific post honoring your dog Sammie.

  2. Carole on July 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    What lovely memories.

  3. ArdenClise on July 24, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Thank you Carole and Andrea. We miss her lots, but we have many sweet memories of her.

  4. TriciaThompson on July 25, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Thank you Arden.  I am so sorry for your loss, but agree that our pets teach us so much – and remind us that simple manners and honest intentions result in the best relationships.

  5. ArdenClise on July 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm

     That’s beautifully written. Yes, pets do teach us so much. Thank you for your kind thoughts Tricia. Much appreciated!!

  6. coping with the loss of a pet on August 16, 2014 at 6:16 am

    coping with the loss of a pet

    Pet Loss | Clise Etiquette

  7. Dominik on December 14, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Spending some time and actual effort
    to make a good article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and never manage to get anything done.

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