So Nice to Meet You!

Sitting politely for greetings outdoors makes for more pleasant conversation.

“So nice to meet you”, “Likewise, what a nice dog you have” as he pets your calm, well-behaved dog. Wouldn’t that be a lovely greeting conversation? What I see happening with most dog/people introductions looks much more like this:

Friend: “What a great dog!”, as the person walks up and the dog immediately jumps on them.

Owner: “Fido, down...OFF...get off...stop jumping!” as dog continues to accost new person.

Friend: “It’s OK, I like dogs” and proceeds to try to politely pet the dog while clearly pushing it down as Fido keeps jumping, clawing and in the case of a large dog, maybe even licking the poor friend’s face. This is not only frustrating, but can be quite scary and painful for some.

Jumping can be both frightening and dangerous no matter the size of the dog.

If we think about it from our dog’s perspective, jumping makes sense! The dog is happy to see you or a new friend and wants to get up to their level. Jumping achieves that goal and often offers the added bonus of the person they are greeting talking to them (or yelling at them to get down, but dogs don’t differentiate) and petting (or pushing them down, but the dog still doesn’t differentiate) and loves the “extra attention” we give, so the jumping is inadvertently being reinforced by the person that does NOT want to be jumped on.

One of the biggest things I am asked to train is what I call a Polite Greeting, meaning please sit politely while we greet, chat and make friends. While this is generally very easy to teach as a puppy, it can be very challenging for an adult dog who has been practicing these jumpy behaviors for most of its life. Thus the old adage, practice makes perfect!

So, how do we fix it without making the situation worse? Simple, don’t let the dog practice - and to teach them something else instead. My preference for the “instead” is a sit...easy to teach, always good to reinforce, and most dogs do it as a default when they don’t know what to do anyway.

In your home, set up a gate or put a leash on and tether your dog to something to keep him in place (a door knob, stair bannister or heavy table leg). Get a handful of treats and start training using these simple steps:

  1. Take a few steps toward your dog and wait. (Don’t say anything and do NOT get close enough for the dog to jump on you - just wait for the dog to sit on his own)

  2. If he sits, say YES! and toss a favorite treat on the ground right in front of him(on the ground keeps the dog oriented down rather than wanting to move upward).

  3. Repeat, getting a little closer each time until you are close enough to be able to pet and continue give treats while petting as long as he is still sitting.

Chopper is tethered to the stair bannister while learning to sit politely when guests enter.

If the dog does not sit, say nothing while you turn around and walk away. Wait for a few seconds, then start over. Remember not to give any commands and just wait for the sit...most dogs will do it within 10-15 seconds, and if they are getting treats for it, they will start offering a sit faster and as an automatic response.

Do this several times, in several places, with MANY different people, children and adults alike...all while your dog is controlled and doesn’t have the ability to actually jump (don’t let them “practice bad behavior”). The key is not asking/telling the dog anything, but letting your dog figure out that when someone walks toward him, he should patiently sit down to get what he wants.

With some consistent practicing of the good behaviors you and your dog, will be able to make new friends and look forward to starting each conversation with, “So nice to see you”.

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