Does your dog need to say hello to everyone? It’s very sweet, but it can cause issues for the person or canine on the receiving end. Most dogs are social animals, and greetings, to most dogs, are near the top of the dog life enjoyment pyramid. Just imagine the thought bubbles over their smiling faces “Yessss! You came home from work!”, “Oooh, a new friend at the door for me to play with!”, “Ah – a new doggie friend is walking toward me at the park!” You can actually see the excitement brewing.
As a pet parent, I’m sure you love seeing the joy that a new person or meeting brings to your pooch, but we have to keep in mind the receiving end of the greeting. Many people are scared of dogs or nervous around them. Some people are allergic. An overexcited dog greeting a small child or frail adult can also be dangerous if there’s a chance they may be knocked over by your dog. That’s why it’s so important to teach your dog a polite way to say ‘hi’. Hopefully, you’re teaching them manners at home, and this is just an extension of those training sessions out in the world.
In my household, dogs and humans go on all sorts of daily adventures together – errands, hiking, walks around the neighborhood, or a drive to the park to throw the tennis ball or fetch with the iFetch. All of our excursions are structured, not just a free-for-all of canine enthusiasm. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have fun. Actually, the routines we have in place for behavior away from home allow us to be more relaxed and less stressed when out and about in an unpredictable world.
Training Tips for Greeting
Our walks require that the dogs stay calm and focused on me. We do meet new people and dogs – but not all of them – and we always greet with rules in place. This makes it easier on everyone. I know what to expect from my dog and my dog knows what to expect from me. My dogs sits by my side and waits for my cue that it’s okay to say hello. Don’t worry – you, too, can get to this point. The skill isn’t difficult to teach, although, like all other training skills, it does require patience, time and consistency. I recommend that you start this at home and get the basics down before taking it to the outside world. All you need is (1) a friend, (2) your dog, (3) a leash, and (4) treats. Now, let’s get started:
- With your dog on leash, have your friend stand across the room from you and your dog.
- Approach your friend until about an arm’s length away.
- Have your friend remain standing without making eye contact with the dog.
- Ask your dog to sit at your side. If your dog is new to this behavior, a nice treat to reward the sit is a good idea.
- When your dog is sitting quietly, give your dog your new cue to say hi. Mine is just that “Say hello”.
- As you say this, have a treat in your hand. Lean down and lead with the treat at nose height to your friend’s leg. You don’t want to be higher than nose height or your pup may jump up for the treat.
- As you’re doing this, ask your friend to reach down to pet the dog. It’s very important to keep the hand with the treat at nose height so that the dog doesn’t jump up to get the treat.
- When you’re both done saying ‘hi’, let your dog know he’s done too. Walk away and reward him with lots of love and praise for being a good social dog.
- Continue to practice this a few times with someone familiar and with someone new who comes to your house, and then give it a try out on your walks together! Remember, practice makes perfect.
Tips for Outside Success
As you venture out with your new greeting training, keep in mind a few things:
- Remember your dog may be more excited with a stranger, so be patient and remain calm asking your dog to sit and calm down.
- For your first few encounters, choose adults without dogs. Ask if your dog can say hello – you can tell them this is a training exercise.
- As your dog masters the skill, say hello to different kinds of people as well as people with dogs. Use your judgment – if you encounter a young child or an older person, make sure your dog is consistent in his training so they don’t jump up on their new friend and startle them.
- If jumping is a consistent behavior for your dog, take a look at another blog we posted on “tips for joyful jumpers”. Teaching your dog to go to “their place” when new people are at the door is a great way to calm them down before asking them to greet your visitor.
Training your dog a proper greeting is also important if you’re considering taking your dog to work with you. There will be lots of new faces and opportunities for greetings so making sure they stay calm and focused on you is so important for everyone involved. Check out this blog on taking your dog to work if you need more training tips.
Remember that you don’t have to say hello to everyone. It’s your job to decide who your dog gets to say hi to. Here are some of my go-to quick responses for why we can’t stop to greet.
- “I’m sorry, we can’t right now, thank you for asking.”
- “I’m sorry, he’s in training.”
- “I’m sorry, he’s in training and we’re working on focusing and listening right now.”
Give these training steps a try and let us know what you think. We hope by investing some time in greeting training, you’ll find your walks and adventures together to be even more enjoyable and stress-free!