So many of us have been there. The end of a long day. You take a step inside your front door and are greeted by a happy, bum-wiggling, tail-wagging, exuberant ball of love and adoration – simply because you are you and you are here. And the stress of day is instantly forgotten, at least for a moment. That moment is one of the great joys of sharing our lives with pets!
But, when other people visit your home, that same level of enthusiasm from your dog, might not be as appreciated. In fact, sometimes it may not even be safe (especially now, when we are trying to maintain a safe distance from people and honor COVID-19 protocols).
Is your pup allowed to jump up on you when you get home, but not strangers or other family members when they visit? That could be pretty confusing for dogs. Teaching polite greeting behavior begins with setting and sticking to clear guidelines that your inquisitive canine can understand. It’s easiest to keep things simple. As with training any other skill, here too, creating positive learning experiences will not only enhance the bond you share, but also get impressive results.
Build on Existing Skills
Depending on where you and your pup are in your training journey together, you’ll have some options when it comes to how you’d like to go about training polite greetings.
You might already have many of the building blocks you need and it’s just a matter of brushing up and putting it all together. For instance, when the doorbell rings, or there’s a knock at the door, would you like your pup to go to a dog bed or mat instead of charging the door? You can decide on a strategy for how you’d like your dog to respond in this situation. Divide that into specific behaviors that you can teach (or review) and then practice them independently to start. For instance, your inquisitive canine may already be familiar with:
- Go to Your Place (targeting the entire body onto a specific mat or bed)
- Sit and Stay
If so, keep rehearsing each one with short sessions that are fun and upbeat. From there, you can combine the behaviors. Eventually, you can build up to asking Fido to ‘stay’ until you give a release cue, such as “Go say hi!” when a guest enters your home.
Keep in mind, just like us, dogs are individuals and work at different paces. Patiently waiting for the release cue amidst the excitement of guests arriving can be a challenging step for many dogs. Not to worry. When homeschooling your inquisitive canine, if your dog doesn’t understand what you’re requesting at first,a helpful tip is to go back to an easier level of teaching.
So let’s take a step back, literally. You can also teach polite greetings as follows:
- Approach your dog, or call him toward you, and ask for a sit. Once he or she sits, reward with any positive attention. Note: When dogs have been rewarded for sitting in various other situations, they might offer it on their own at this point.
- Keeping his or her rear end on the ground makes you come closer to say hello and jumping up makes you, your attention, treats, or playtime (the rewards) go away.
- If he or she jumps up, step back.
- Practice until you can step towards your dog and say ‘hi” and your dog responds by sitting politely.
- Next, practice this same exercise while your dog is in your house and you walk in from outside.
- If he or she gets up, walk out and close the door. Repeat this until your dog sits politely while you enter the house.
- Remember to take it easy and have fun with your dog!
- If your dog hasn’t learned the verbal “sit” cue yet, you can teach this first. We invite you to check out our Inquisitive Canine DIY “Sit” exercise.
Managing the Environment
How can you set your pup up for success? What does managing the environment entail when training polite greetings? Among other things, it means not giving your dog the chance to make a choice to charge the door or jump up on people and get rewarded for it.
When dogs get rewarded (with attention) for jumping, they will jump more! So, if you have a dog with a long history of being petted when they jump up on beloved humans, putting a harness and leash on the dog when someone is coming over is a helpful management strategy. If you have two sets of hands available, you can have one person stay with the leashed dog, cuing and rewarding behaviors that are incompatible with charging the door or jumping on guests (behaviors you’d rather not see), while the other person calmly answers the door.
For the “Go say hi” step, again, if you want “no jumping” to be the rule, it has to mean no jumping unless cued to do so. Note: If you do want your dog to jump on you (sometimes) this is an easy behavior to put on cue. In this specific circumstance, jumping on you can even serve as a real-life reward, in place of a treat. In this case, consistency and discrimination will be maintained because you’ll only allow the jumping when you’ve cued it, not at other times.
Practice: Reinforce Good Choices
Continue to practice polite greetings and door manners with yourself and other family members at first. Once your dog is proficient in greeting family members, you can explain to friends and visitors who are willing to help out that your dog is in training and ask them for assistance. Just remember to share with others what the rules are and what you’re trying to achieve. When possible, ask visitors to only interact with your dog when there are four paws politely stuck to the floor. Then, thank your guests profusely for their help! Positive reinforcement is not just for dogs, after all.
Lastly, help teach your dog to generalize polite manners during outdoor adventures too! Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series to learn more about unleashing good manners when out and about with your pup.
As always, thank you for being an inquisitive dog guardian!