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Steps To Teach A Polite Greeting

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

Many pet parents struggle with how to teach their dog to greet their guests without jumping all over them. At best sometimes this means guests are greeted with a few sloppy kisses, at worst they end up with torn clothes, or muddy paw prints all over them. So how do we stop the dog from jumping up? Lets first address the underlying cause.

Dogs inherently like jumping up. Dogs jump up to greet one another, to play with their litter mates and parents. So jumping is very much their first instinct when they greet. This transfers when they greet humans as well. They are excited to meet this person who may become their playmate, and so they do what they've always done, and jump up to greet them. Try not to get mad, its all they know! We have to take the time to teach them that their usual and more natural way of initiating play and getting attention won't work with people. So here are some things to do!

First, every time your dog jumps up to greet you, and your guests, ignore him. Remember that behavior only exists when it's rewarded. Eventually your dog will learn that when he jumps on you, nothing happens. That means that you can't talk to him, move toward or away (which may be interpreted as wrestling or chase), or do anything that the dog may interpret as getting some attention out of you. We can also head off the jumping by scattering food on the floor, taking the dogs attention away from jumping up on the guest, to sniffing around on the floor. This also adds some classical conditioning between the dog and the guests, so is particularly helpful with dogs who might be a little shy around strangers.

Next lets teach the dog what we do want him to do. It's not enough to simply ignore unwanted behavior, we have to give them an alternative behavior to do instead so they have the ability to be rewarded, and thus increase the likelihood that the wanted behavior will occur again. I say it all the time, stop focusing on what you don't want, and start focusing on what you do want! Most people agree that a polite greeting would look something like this; the dog walks up to the visitor, sits (or stands) in front of them, sniffs their hand, and allows for petting.

Let's break that down a little bit into actual behaviors we can train. Those behaviors are,

Walking up to the person

Sitting/Standing in front of the person

Sniffing the persons hand

Allowing for pets in the sit/or standing position

The first thing I like to work on with a dog is accepting pets without getting over stimulated and jumping up for more. To do this, I start with a pretty simple step, letting the dog know I am going to pet them, by putting a cue on it. Doing this will often allow the dog to relax a little more while being petted. I start by saying the word 'pets' then reaching my hand toward their head (because this is how most people tend to pet dogs, though reaching their under their head would be preferable). Before I reach their head, I click and treat, teaching them that a hand coming toward their face is a good thing. I repeat this a few times, then start reaching my hand a little further, until I am actually reaching over and on their head, again repeating the word 'pets' before each time, and clicking and treating after each repetition. Over a couple sessions, you should be able to say the word 'pets' reach your hand over your dogs head, and give pets all down his back, and stand up again.

This is just the first step in teaching your dog to offer a polite greeting to your guests. Remember that with any behavior, practice makes perfect! If you'd like more information on how to train these behaviors, or if you have any specific questions, don't hesitate to contact me through our contact page.

Happy Training!

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