Teaching Your Dog To Greet People Politely
One of the most common problems is that dogs lunge towards people. When that happens, we, embarrassed that our dogs are “out of control”, jerk the dog back and yell at the dog.
Big mistake. Dogs don’t speak English and we can’t explain to them why we are correcting them and if your dog associates the correction with a person approaching instead of the lunging, you can create a human aggressive dog. This happens a lot more than people realize.
“Uh oh!” Here comes a person, I’m going to get jerked and yelled at. I’m going to growl to warn the person to stay away so I don’t get jerked and yelled at.”
And then of course, we are even more upset when the dog growls and jerk harder and the cycles escalates. (Even though we should know to never correct a dog who is growling because we always want to know when the dog is warning us so we don’t get bitten.)
It is very simple to teach your dog to greet people politely. You will need accomplices because it is impossible to teach manners in real life, you need to set the dog up. Your accomplice can be a family member to start, although you will eventually need around 10 accomplices because dogs don’t generalize behaviors well and it takes about 10 people before the dog generalizes the behavior.
1. The accomplice should be about 20’ away from the dog. If you can’t hold the dog, tether the dog. Tie the lead to a tree, slam it in a car door, do whatever is convenient because if the dog pulls you forward, it’s going to take much longer to teach.
2. Cue the dog to sit.
3. The accomplice starts to walk towards the dog. You are a tree, which means no talking or moving, the dog will learn much better if you don’t interfere (scientifically proven).
4. If the dog gets up, the accomplice dead stops and you wait. When the dog is giving you attention, or after about 30 seconds, get the dog’s attention by tapping the dog gently on the butt and cue the dog to sit again. This is the hardest time for humans who are a very verbal species, to be quiet, but it is the most important time for us to be quiet, except to get the dog’s attention if necessary and cueing the dog to sit.
5. The accomplice starts forward again. If the dog gets up, the accomplice dead stops, etc.
6. If the dog gets up 3 times, the accomplice turns and goes back to the “start” about 20’ away.
7. When the accomplice is able to walk all the way to the dog while the dog remains sitting, have a party like there is no tomorrow! The accomplice should pet and praise the dog for at least 20 seconds. If the dog gets up, don’t worry about it at this time, however if the dog jumps, the accomplice must immediately turn away from the dog.
8. Repeat with every family member and friend you can wheedle into helping. When the dog remains sitting, have your accomplice start talking as the accomplice walks towards the dog. This increases the distraction level and even if your dog was rock solid, your dog may get up when the accomplice starts talking.
Talking is an added distraction and very likely to happen in real life, but you start teaching with a quiet accomplice because you teach in steps so the dog can be successful at each step. If you ask too much of the dog, the dog will fail and you never want to set your dog up for failure.
Have the accomplice increase the talking and use a high squeaky voice to get the dog excited, but because you are teaching in steps, don’t add the
high voice until the dog is rock solid sitting with a calm voice.
9. The dog should be kept at home until the behavior is solid. Then the dog can go to the pet store or for walks. When a stranger approaches, politely ask the stranger to help you train your dog and to please stop if the dog gets up. Cue the dog to sit and have the stranger approach. I did this with a Mastiff puppy and everyone was very cooperative. In fact, he loved attention so much that eventually if he thought a person was coming towards him, he would automatically sit. If the person passed him by, he would look so disappointed LOL!
10. Patience, consistency, teaching in steps and letting the dog figure out what the right behavior is are the keys to success!
Copyright 2002 Virginia Wind