By Shoshi Parks
New friends are the best – better than all the treats in the world, better than walks and car rides and toys. For dogs, saying hello to someone new is the ultimate reward.
But in their joy, many dogs forget that jumping, barking and spinning circles does not result in a new best friend. If you’re raising your voice and jumping around, too, they think you must be having an equal amount of fun.
Luckily, anything your dog considers a reward can also be used to motivate them to change their behavior – also knowns as positive reinforcement dog training. If saying hello to a new friend is the best thing in the world, then being denied the opportunity to say hello is no fun at all. If your dog only gets to say hello when being calm, with consistency and patience your dog will learn that a calm greeting is better than no greeting at all.
The holiday season is chock-full of opportunities for your dog to greet new friends. Try these steps to improve the greeting experience between your dog and your friends and loved ones at home or outdoors.
Greeting holiday guests
- Open the door. If Lucy is overly excited, immediately inform her she’s not making friends by saying “Too bad!” As quickly as possible, gently take her by the collar to the closest room and close the door for a 30-second time-out.
- Release Lucy to say hello again. If she is still too excited, tell her “Too bad!” again and give her 30 more seconds in time out.
- Repeat until Lucy is able to exit the room and say hello calmly.
Returning home with friends
- Open the front door and greet Rex calmly and quietly. If he jumps on you or a guest, ask everyone to immediately back up, closing the door as you go. Resist the urge to use your hands (or knees!) to push Rex off.
- Wait for 30 seconds then open the door again. If Rex jumps, everyone backs out again. Rex learns that jumping on friends makes them disappear.
- Repeat until you are able to enter the house without Rex taking his paws off the floor.
Welcoming elderly family
- Leash Sophie and instruct Aunt Sue to stand by the door when she enters.
- Sophie can sit or stand when Aunt Sue enters but if she pulls towards her, barks or jumps around, back a few steps away. Wait for Sophie to calm down or ask her to sit.
- When Sophie is calm, begin walking towards Aunt Sue. If she gets too excited again, back up a few steps, wait until she calms down, then resume walking towards Aunt Sue.
- Repeat Step 3 Sophie reaches Aunt Sue with all four paws on the floor.
Saying ‘hello’ to friendly neighbors
- Stop walking, drop Buster’s leash to the ground and step on it, leaving about 2 feet between Buster and your foot.
- Call out a friendly “Hello!” and ask if your neighbor will help you teach Buster to greet politely.
- Ask Buster to sit or lay down. These positions will be most comfortable for him because his leash is so short. If Buster stands up, calmly ask him to sit or lay down again.
- Ask your neighbor to approach but to stand still anytime Buster stands up. Buster learns that he doesn’t get to say hello unless he is calmly sitting or lying down.
As your pup practices good behavior, make sure to reinforce that behavior using a treat, like a Vita Bone® biscuit. This is best method for your pup to learn, understand, and continue to behave well!