Teaching Your Dog to Greet Politely

Don’t you love the look of absolute joy on your dog’s face when you come home from an absence? They’re all wiggly and goofy, dancing around with smiling faces. However, that joyful reunion can quickly turn to irritation if your dog starts jumping on you.

Jumping up probably starts innocently enough. Our puppy jumps up on our legs, and we automatically bend down and give them attention because they’re so darn cute. It’s thought dogs are trying to get to our faces, as their wild ancestors used muzzle-to-muzzle greetings when reuniting. We also reinforce (reward) the jumping by giving the attention they’re seeking.

Before you know it, Fido is a 70-pound torpedo launching at guests or knocking over the grand kids and the jumping becomes embarrassing, irritating and potentially dangerous. It’s up to us to teach them a more acceptable way to say hello to people. Here are some things you can do to help your enthusiastic greeter.

Prevention comes first

Set up the environment to prevent her jumping on people. Use baby gates or fold-able pens to block your dog’s access to doorways so family and friends can enter without Fido leaping at them.

If your dog likes toys, keep one near the door to toss as you enter. While she’s off chasing the toy, you have time to put your things down. Or, try tossing a handful of treats on the floor as you come in. It will temporarily distract your dog so you can get past her without getting jumped on.

Keep some yummy food dispensing toys or chew bones ready, so you can remove your dog from the area and give her something to do while people are visiting. Keep a leash handy too, so you can calmly remove your dog if she starts to jump.

Don’t reward jumping

Behavior that is reinforced (rewarded) happens more often, so our dogs keep jumping because it works for them. Turn your back when your dog jumps on you. When she stops jumping, turn around, crouch down and give attention at her level. Keep turning away every time she jumps up.

If your dog jumps as you come in the door, go right back out and close the door behind you. Removing yourself will leave your dog wondering what happened! Wait a few seconds, and then come in again. Reward with a treat and/or attention when she keeps four-on-the-floor or sits to greet.

Train an alternate behavior

If you want your dog to sit to greet, you’ll need to start by training a reliable sit-stay. Dogs need lots of repetition and rewards to learn the “tricks” we humans want them to do, so practice a lot in the absence of guests first, until your dog will sit quickly, every time.

Consistency is key, so all family members need to be on board with the plan. Enlist the help of some dog loving friends too and educate everyone on how to use management strategies, remove attention, and reward appropriate behavior.