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Everything You Need to Know About Consent Tests

What is a consent test?

A consent test is a way of gauging whether a dog (or other animal for that matter) is willing and keen to interact with you.

How can I perform a consent test?

The way to perform a consent test is, first and foremost, to let the dog approach you. 

When the dog does approach you, pat them on the chin, neck or shoulder for approximately three seconds gently and then stop and gauge the dog's reaction.

Whatever that dog's reaction is, use that as a guide to whether to resume the interaction or give the dog space.

What signs should I look for to see if a consent test is positive, neutral, or negative?

For a positive consent test, we want to see open, relaxed and calm body language.

That usually means relaxed muscles, both body and around the face. Eyes should be bright and alert. The mouth should be open and not tight. Usually the tail will be wagging, not always, but usually. And if it is wagging, it'll be a nice loose arch.

In terms of movement, the dog will be approaching towards you and soliciting interaction via a direct approach, or maybe by leaning into you. Some more confident dogs might even push their nose into you or even paw at you. They're usually reliable signs a dog is wanting to interact with that positive consent test.

A neutral consent test is when say, the dog does what we call a passby, where they approach you and then keep going. And there's no clear behavior that indicates they want to interact, but at the same time, they're not showing signs that they don't want to interact.

We call that a neutral consent test because the dog isn't showing a preference either way.

Lastly is what we might call a negative consent test - when the dog showing signs of a negative emotional reaction to the interaction.

That might be avoiding the person. That might be slightly shifting away from the person or showing subtle signs of tightening or tensing of the muscles. Their mouth might go from open to shut. Their ears might move back, or you'll see whale eye.

All those signs are usually a negative consensus. And then there's in the extreme circumstances of growling, barking or biting, which usually happens after the previous behaviors have been ignored and the dog feels the need to escalate.

Why are consent tests important?

They're very important because it's letting the dog choose the interaction and it helps you to build a stronger, more positive bond with the dog because it lets the dog know that they can opt out of interactions.

Usually the more a dog has choice to opt out, the more they'll actively choose to interact with you because they feel safer.

Are there different types of consent tests?


The version where you pat the dog and gauge the reaction is the simplest version, but there are different types where dog trainers or behavior enthusiasts, train their dogs to do things.

One example, is to train a dog to rest their head on a table or surface. This consent test can be the precurser for other activities, such as consenting to having their nails trimmed or receive medical procedures from the vet.

What mistakes do we make thinking a dog wants a pat when they really don't?

There's several risks associated with interacting with a dog that doesn't want to interact with you.

Long term, you can be creating negative associations with either yourself or people in general, and that can have a negative effect on how that dog exists in the world going forward.

In the short term, it can put whoever the individual is at risk because we don't always know what's going on in a dog's internal status. Whether that dog might have a health issue that day, might be in pain and might be less tolerant than they'd normally be.

If we ignore those subtle signs that the dog doesn't want to interact, it puts us the human at risk.

I’d like to learn more about interacting with dogs before adopting one, can I still apply through GAP NSW?


We are very open to adopting out dogs to first time dog owners and anyone who adopts or fosters through us is provided with a wealth of information on dog behavior and in particular Greyhound behavior and training. Never think that that's a barrier to Greyhound ownership.

Our experienced team will guide you through the process and establish whether a greyhound is right for you.