Michael Bloomberg’s weirdo way to greet a dog

Avoid the snout: Choose these 7 tips for first greeting with dogs

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Feb 1 · 6 min read
Photo credit: Pixabay

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is an odd man. He also has selective memory. In the 2000s, he defended stop-and-frisk policing (i.e. racial profiling) and went to the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn in 2012 to emphasize how much he believed in it fighting crime. But in 2020, now that he’s running for president, he conveniently ignored all the years people asked him to stop this nonstop harassment of black and brown people. Then he went right back to that same church to apologize.

Then here comes the weird mayor to randomly (and bravely) put his fingers in the dog’s mouth and around the snoot — world’s worst way to greet an animal who doesn’t know you.

But now that he got his memory back and gave a convenient apology, he’s on to doing more weird stuff — like shaking dogs’ snouts.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

His memory suddenly came into action after declaring his presidential run. He remarkably comprehends that half of the stop-and-frisk people who were harassed were black and a third were Latino. About half were 14–24 years old, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union (via Guardian). Police found no weapon on 93 percent of the people stopped — 52 percent of black people in 2016, 57 percent in 2017 and 2018, and 60 percent in 2019.

But now that he got his memory back and gave a convenient apology, he’s on to doing more weird stuff — like shaking dogs’ snouts. I expect nothing less from a man like this, especially after his strangely too-rich-to-relate-to interview on “The Late Show.” But it’s the people who are defending him shaking the dog’s snout that worry me.

According to one user, “I LOVE that Mike Bloomberg is interacting and being playful with the sweet doggo! Doggo’s tail indicates happiness!!! [insert four hearts here].”

Yeah, that’s not how that works.

Why a dog wags his tail

While dogs cannot have the same human-to-human conversation we’d like them to — especially when they’re barking at no one in particular — a dog’s tail can let you know a lot about how he’s feeling.

According to the American Kennel Club:

  • A lowered tail between the legs indicates fear, anxiety or submission
  • A slow wag also indicates insecurity and/or feeling unsure
  • A tail held up higher than normal indicates alertness (ex. a squirrel ran by or a bird is flying near)
  • An energetic tail wagging from side to side can be a friendly greeting (licks or a play bow usually follow)

In the case of this video, there is also a man patting the dog’s rear area, so we cannot tell whether the energetic wagging is due to the man behind him or all the attention around him. What we do see is the dog was initially turning away from him and toward the man on the right (his left). Then here comes the weird mayor to randomly (and bravely) put his fingers in the dog’s mouth and around the snoot — world’s worst way to greet an animal who doesn’t know you.

Additionally, dogs who wag their tails more toward the left can be considered stressed or anxious, reports Cell.com. Dogs who wag their tails to the right are often associated with being in a playful mood and friendlier. They also react this way to other stimulus. Dogs appeared to be more relaxed when looking at a stimulus wagging its tail to the right side.

Photo credit: Stux/Pixabay

This dog is indeed wagging its tail more toward the right side, but again, there are quite a few stimuli around and it’s hard to tell what he’s happy about. What we do know is he opened his mouth even more in hopes that Bloomberg would let it go, licked his lips and still looked downward.

And while Bloomberg may have gotten away with his fingers unscathed, it is highly recommended that you never take this tip from the mayor (or many other of his mayoral tips). Here’s what you should do when interacting with a dog for the first time.

  1. Talk to the human. Greet the human that the dog is with first.
  2. Ask for permission to pet the dog. Ask the human if it’s OK to pet his/her dog before you do it. The dog is already sizing you up the minute you walk over. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to use my own body to block overly friendly passersby who walk up, fingers extended and completely ignoring the person on the other end of the leash.
  3. Avoid coming directly toward the dog. Maybe approach by the side so both he and you have room to move. Unlike humans who tend to stand in front of each other, approaching sideways is seen as less of a threat, according to Mercola.
  4. Squat down to the dog’s height. As uncomfortable as it may seem, you’d be better off squatting in front of the dog (without staring him directly in the eyes) to seem less threatening than to stand over him and stare at him. This initially took me time to get used to — and I’ve dog sat and walked 75 different dogs — because you want to keep an eye on any strange dog behavior. When I did it, I made sure I was standing by a nearby exit, specifically if I was in an unfamiliar home. But just as humans are wary of someone staring at them, the same rules apply if you’re sizing up a dog.
  5. Consider letting the dog come to you instead of the other way around. He can walk around you and sniff you, and decide whether he trusts you or not. Walking over and grabbing his mouth, or petting him without permission, will catch him immediately off guard. This is one of many reasons why the owners of service dogs, guard dogs and dogs in general are asked to keep a tight leash. We don’t know what other humans will randomly do when we’re walking with a dog anymore than what even the most well-trained dog will do if caught off-guard.
  6. Ball your fist up. Again, this may initially seem strange, but it’s one of those techniques that also works. Your dog can smell your hands and learn more about you. And you are less at risk of losing a finger should the dog not be particularly thrilled with you.
  7. Do not touch the dog’s head or hind area. And most importantly, choose the neck, chest or shoulders instead of the head. My Lab used to always bump people’s hands so it was on his head. That’s fine. He intended for you to get there. But I can count at least three dogs this week alone who would shift my hands to their chest or lower back. Personally, I like to start with a paw-shake (if the dog is trained to give you a paw). Then back and shoulders. And then see if the dog is cool with anything else.

While Bloomberg certainly lucked out in this moment, human-to-dog interactions, especially upon first greeting, would be much better off if these rules were applied. And should a dog become aggressive if you test out the Bloomberg Dog Greeting, that’s not the dog’s fault. Please don’t wait almost two decades to apologize because you screwed up.


Shamontiel is a dog lover to her core: 419 completed walks, eight dog-housesittings and three dog boardings at the time of this publication. Would you like to receive Shamontiel’s Weekly Newsletter via MailChimp? Sign up today!

Doggone World

This “Doggone World” publication is for dog lovers, dog walkers, dog owners and all bark-related, feel-good activity.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; part-time dog walker and dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 5x officer; WERQ dance and yoga enthusiast; Shamontiel.com

Doggone World

This “Doggone World” publication is for dog lovers, dog walkers, dog owners and all bark-related, feel-good activity.

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