The holidays are coming, and one of the best parts of this time of year is having friends and family over to celebrate together.
For inquisitive canine parents with dogs that don’t know how to politely greet people, though, having people over often only adds to the stresses of the season.
As a certified trainer, dog lover, and member of the therapy dog organization Love on a Leash, I find a composed canine greeting, be it at home or along the way, of the utmost importance – everyone appreciates a polite pooch.
So let’s get started!
The goal for Part 1 of this behavior training is to teach your dog that sitting or standing to greet you and other family members is much more rewarding than jumping up.
Jump Control, Part 1
The goal for Part 1 is to teach your dog Sitting = Attention / Jumping up =Being Ignored
- First, reward your dog with petting, praise, treats or the toss of a toy whenever s/he greets you with “four on the floor” (all four paws on the floor) or sitting up nicely.
- Approach your dog, or call him or her toward you, and ask for a sit. Once s/he sits, reward her or him with positive attention.
- If and when your dog jumps up on you, turn away and ignore.
- As soon as your dog stops jumping, and his or her paws are back on the ground, turn around to face him or her and reward.
- When s/he doesn’t jump, pet and praise your dog. If you have treats, give one. If s/he gets too excited and jumps up again, turn your back again and start over.
- If you turn your back but your dog keeps jumping on your back, try walking away. It’s important that you completely ignore the dog — don’t talk or chide. Pretend like s/he is not there.
Jump Control, Part 2
The goal for Part 2 is to teach your dog to greet other people, including friends and strangers, politely.
Whenever possible, teach family and friends the Part 1 exercise and have them practice with your dog. When encountering people you don’t know who are willing to do the Part 1 exercise, the following will help teach your dog to generalize polite manners:
- Warm up your dog by having her or him sit for you when s/he wants to say “hi” and be petted. Have family members and friends do the same. Then take it on the road.
- When a stranger approaches your dog (or when you approach a stranger with your dog, after having ascertained that person wishes to be approached), ask your dog to sit. Your dog must stay in the sit position as the stranger approaches to pet her or him.
- Give a treat to your dog for sitting as the person approaches. If your dog gets up, stop the treats and ask the person to stop or take a step backwards. Your dog will soon learn that if s/he stays seated (or next to you with four on the floor), then s/he receives attention from you and from the person saying hello. Conversely, if s/he gets up, s/he gets nothing. Your inquisitive canine will soon figure out which is the better choice.
- Keep in mind that walking away from the person, or not allowing the person or other dog to say hello is not intended as a punishment, so refrain from jerking the collar or using an angry voice. The intention is simply to keep your dog from jumping up (before s/he can scare someone or dirty that person’s clothes), and to communicate that s/he lost the opportunity to greet the person.
- Throughout these exercises, you can turn to explain to the stranger that you’re teaching your dog not to jump. If the person seems interested in the training process or your dog, you can ask that person if he or she wouldn’t mind helping. If so, repeat the above procedure until your dog doesn’t try to jump. At that point, allow the person to pet your dog and say hello.
Is your dog already skilled at this behavior? Make it more challenging by adding in distractions or asking for a “Down” instead of “Sit.”
Now is the perfect time to practice jump control training so that by the time the holidays are here, your rover will be perfectly polite when people come over!
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