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Teach Your Canine to Greet People Politely

The holidays are coming, which often means having friends and family over to celebrate together. (Or you and your inquisitive canine visiting others.)

For inquisitive pet 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 professional dog trainer, dog lover, and dog mom, I find a composed dog greeting, be it at home or along the way, of the utmost importance – everyone appreciates a polite pooch! 

So let’s get started with strategies for better dog greeting!

Frenchie Sitting to Greet

Polite Dog Greeting

The goal for Part 1 of this behavior training is to teach your dog to greet you and other family members politely. Your dog needs to learn that sitting or standing to greet 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 she greets you with “four on the floor” (all four paws on the floor) or sitting up nicely.
  • Approach your dog, or call her to you, and ask for a sit. Once she sits, reward with a treat and of course positive attention. 
  • If and when your dog jumps up on you, turn away and ignore.
  • As soon as she stops jumping, and her paws are back on the ground, turn around to face her and reward.
  • Whenever she makes good choices by offering the desired behavior, pet and praise, and of course treat your dog!
  • If she gets too excited and jumps up again, turn your back again and start over. 

Remember, the focus of part 1 is to teach your dog what you want, so she learns what the right choice is. Reward often and reward heavily, so not only does she choose to do it, but enjoys offering this behavior.

Doodle Sitting to Greet

Jump Control, Part 2

The goal for Part 2 is to teach polite dog greeting for other people, including friends and strangers.

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 him sit for you when 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 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 he stays seated (or next to you with four on the floor), then he receives attention from you and from the person saying hello. Conversely, if he gets up, 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 “naughty.” Your dog is likely excited and hasn’t generalized the behavior yet, so refrain from jerking the collar or using an angry voice. The intention is simply to keep your dog from jumping up (before she can scare someone or dirty that person’s clothes), and to communicate that she lost the opportunity to greet the person.
  • Throughout these exercises, you can explain to the stranger that you’re teaching your dog to greet politely and to not 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 greeting politely so that by the time the holidays are here, your canine companion will be the perfect greeter, no matter where and when they get to say “Hello!” 

Wanna join the conversation? Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Inquisitive Canine Facebook page.