Saying hello politely is challenging for many dogs in ways that don’t immediately resonate with us humans. Expectations get in the way. Our human greeting rituals don’t transfer readily and seem unnatural to our dogs. The result is an undesirable greeting. Greeting humans in the home as well as on the street is a skill set that must be trained in.
Jumping doesn’t always indicate a relaxed and friendly internal state. A nervous or conflicted dog is as likely as any to jump on a greeter. She may be uncertain about that person and, in the absence of an alternative directive from her human, can’t quite work out what else to do.
Without training and boundaries, many dogs struggle to exercise emotional self-control. In the meet and greet scenario, this dog’s arousal level blasts over a threshold, and he can’t process anything. The greeter is an overwhelming stimulus.
If a dog jumps, and it doesn’t “feel” friendly, it isn’t. Dogs in this mindset have learned that pushy behaviors “work” for them. They prefer to say good-bye and push the greeter out the door. It’s their way of trying to control/guard space.
Train In Several Obedience Cues
Teach your dog to look at you when you need his attention: “watch”. Make sitting work better for him than jumping. Dogs do what works for them. Training a bulletproof “sit” cue will replace jumping. When a behavior (jumping) is never reinforced, it becomes extinct. Reinforced behaviors (sitting and waiting) stick and replace ignored/ungratifying ones.
Most dogs must be trained to “wait” and/or “stay” in order to acquire adequate self-control. Frustration tolerance must be trained along with measures to reduce impulsivity. A solid “wait” cue helps and is super-handy in many daily applications. Setting boundaries and using behavior management strategies are components in this effort, too.
Use learned cues to ask something of your dog for resources he needs and wants. Consider compliance and taking directives from his humans as his job. Undesirable meet and greet reactions can change to calmer responses when an owner provides specific directives, such as “watch, sit, and wait”. Practice these obedience cues with increasing distractions, so your dog’s learning is generalized. An appropriate and meaningful reinforcement schedule make good behaviors stick and become habits.
Set Up For Successful Greetings
When we greet another human, we approach frontally and stop approximately three feet apart. Dogs have a distance comfort zone, too, and sometimes it’s larger than ours. We must adjust for greeters who encroach upon the dog’s comfort zone; otherwise, it’s a set up for a jump greeting. Other factors to consider for success are the length of the greeting time, the level of enthusiasm from the greeter, the amount of petting and talking to the dog, and the greeter’s body posture. Leaning over the dog’s head, sustained direct eye contact, and petting on the top of the dog’s head are common greeting practices. All of these actions set the dog up to jump. You can actively de-sensitize your dog to greeter’s leaning over and other handling practices from the general public that most dogs find unpleasant.
No jump meet and greets require practice! Observe and learn to read your dog. Expect that great behaviors in this difficult context take time and develop gradually. Advocate for her. There will be situations when taking a step backwards to accommodate your dog’s comfort zone is needed for success. When the greeting goes on too long, and you see your dog is about to lose her composure, wish the greeter a nice day and continue on your way. Remember that your dog is depending on YOU to take charge of meet and greet events —–not the other way around.
Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel CPDT-KA, 2018 all rights reserved
Kimberly Mandel Behavior and Training LLC