Joan Hunter Mayer on December 20, 2012
Dear Joan and Poncho-
If I arrive at a friend’s home dressed well, and they haven’t trained their dog to keep from jumping, what should I say to keep the peace, while keeping my clothes in one piece as well?
Allow me and Poncho to commend you on taking such a proactive approach to helping your friend’s dog develop good canine manners, including helping them train their dog to not jump on guests! As a certified professional dog trainer I appreciate when folks like yourself take the initiative to help pet dogs learn proper social skills. And Poncho, being a canine that enjoys socializing with many humans, is delighted to show off the “greeting politely” skills he’s learned in our inquisitive canine dog training classes.
Poncho and I both agree that your question “What should I say?” is a great way to begin the training process: you’re opening your friend’s eyes to their dog’s behavior, while enlisting them in taking part of the decision making. They might want to follow the same steps as this Dear Inquisitive Canine reader who was having “jumping-to-greet” problems at home with her own dog.
Although using your voice is ideal, we recommend you also use non-verbal communication to help teach your friend’s dog to greet politely. In other words, allow your body language to “do the talking” for you. This way, if you prefer not to confront your friends (humans can be touchy about these things), or you don’t have time to discuss it, or the situation doesn’t allow for it, you’ll still be able to teach your friend’s dog how to greet politely. We know, it’s kind of passive, but it’s simple, effective, and fun! Plus, your friend will probably want to have you over more often!
Whether your friend requests something specific or not, you can still use the following steps as your back-up plan to help their dog greet you politely:
- Reward what you want: Reward the dog only if he or she is sitting, lying down, or at the very least has four paws on the floor when greeting you! That’s it! The owner gives petting, praise, and food treats for sitting/lying down, etc. Then the final reward is you saying hello! Either a scratch under the chin, a food treat, or a “Good dog!” from afar.
- Ignore unwanted behavior: And we mean ignore! If the dog gets up and begins to launch him or herself to greet you, then you retreat (or turn away) and ignore this inconsequential behavior! Zero eye-contact and zero pushing or yelling. You can even walk out if you have to. Remember, attention is still attention!
- Practice! Either actively set up sessions with your friends and their dog when you’re wearing your casual clothes, or passively set up practice sessions by arranging to stop by and say *hi*.
Providing some situational awareness to your friends, along with a little practice should help set everyone up for success! As the saying goes, “It takes a village.” On behalf of myself and Poncho, we thank you for being part of our “village” and taking the time to help dogs become better accustomed to our human environment.
Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho the dog. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and dog behavior coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple, commonsense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.