A composed dog greeting, be it at home or out and about, is one skill that is of the utmost importance in our human world. Everyone appreciates a polite pooch — us included! Below, we outline how to teach your dog that sitting to say hello gets tons of attention – petting, praise, food, play – while on the flip side, jumping up gets absolutely nothing. He or she will soon figure out what the better, more rewarding choice is and you’ll be on your way to unleashing good manners on outdoor adventures with your best friend.
Two Simple Rules
In order for us to teach dogs to greet people politely, we need to set them up for success through:
- Rewarding them whenever they greet anyone nicely.
- Preventing rewarding them if they do jump up. Consistency is key!
Of course, real life is rarely simple. So here are some tips to help teach your dog to generalize polite manners when encountering people you don’t know who are willing to participate in your training:
- Begin with a review of Dog Training Tips for Great Greetings – Part One.
- Next, practice some warm-up exercises:
- Ask your dog for a ‘sit’ when s/he wants to say “hi” and be petted by you.
- Have family members or friends do the same.
- Then put on your dog’s harness and leash and take it on the road:
- While adventuring outdoors with your dog, honor your area’s COVID-19 protocols and maintain a safe distance from the people you encounter.
- When a stranger shows interest and wants to approach your dog (or when you approach a stranger with your dog, after having confirmed that person wishes to be approached), explain that your dog is in school and that you’re teaching him/her not to jump or pull when meeting new people.
- If the person seems interested in helping out in the training process, you can ask for some assistance, if he or she wouldn’t mind, and then proceed to the next steps.
- As the stranger approaches, ask your dog to sit. Your dog must stay in the sit position as the helper continues to approach.
- 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 approaching and/ or take a step backwards.
- Many dogs will soon learn that staying seated (or next to you with “four on the floor”), results in receiving attention from you and from the person saying hello. Conversely, getting up results in getting nothing. It’ll be easy for pup to 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 leash or using an angry voice.
- The intention is simply to keep your dog from pulling you or jumping up (and scaring people or dirtying their clothes, etc.).
- Repeat the above procedure until your dog is offering polite greeting behaviors on his or her own and doesn’t try to lunge and jump on your new friend.
- Thank the helper for assisting you!
Here at the Inquisitive Canine, it is our mission to help ensure an easy, enjoyable, walking experience, enhancing the bond guardians have with their dogs. Our goal is to move society forward into a mutually respectful space between dogs and humans – thereby creating a pawsitive cultural shift. So, if your greetings aren’t going great, rather than resign yourself and your pup to 4 a.m. walks in remote areas where you won’t bump into anyone, or worse, forfeit walks altogether, take a look at these troubleshooting tips instead:
- Is your dog emotionally struggling when out on walks? Consult a qualified positive reinforcement trainer if you think you might be dealing with a more complicated situation, such as leash reactivity or if you would like any guidance throughout this process.
- What really motivates your dog? When you know what motivates your dog, you can more effectively use positive reinforcement to foster behaviors that you want to see repeated and teach new ones incompatible with the behaviors you’d rather not see (such as a strong ‘sit’ to keep a jumpy greeter from jumping).
- Does your dog have a strong ‘sit’? Remember, when you use the cue word “sit,” say it only once, then wait. If pup doesn’t respond, think about ways you can help your dog succeed, perhaps by making adjustments in the motivation, environment and/or level of difficulty.
- Are your incorporating real-life rewards? Keep in mind that like us, each dog is an individual and that ‘rewards’ are based on personal preferences. In some situations, real-life rewards such as saying “hello” to someone could be even more reinforcing than food or toys!
- Are you training in 3D? Think about Distance, Duration and Distractions and adjust each very gradually as your dog is ready. As one of these variables gets more challenging, it helps to make the others easier, or at least leave them the same. For instance, with increased distractions in the environment, you might request a shorter duration ‘sit and stay’ before giving the release cue to go say ‘hi.’ In other words, if you and your dog are feeling stalled out in this training process, simply try to make things a little easier and then give it another go.
- Is your dog getting mixed signals from different people? To keep polite greeting training consistent, it helps when all humans your dog comes into contact with understand “the rules.”
Most importantly, keep learning fun! Learning new skills can and should be enjoyable and enriching for student andteacher, enhancing the bond you share. With patience and consistency, you will help your dog build self-confidence and want to stay engaged in training games and exercises. Pretty soon, every outing with your dog will be a walk in the park!
Here’s to making new and wonderful friends wherever you and your inquisitive canine go!