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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 3:51 pm | Fair 63º


Inquisitive Canine: Get a Jump on Teaching Proper Greetings

Let your body language do the talking in improving the behavior of a friend's dog

Dear Joan and Poncho:

If I arrive at a friends’ home well-dressed, and they haven’t trained their dog to keep from jumping, what should I say to keep the peace — and keep my clothes in one piece?

— Lisa

Dear Lisa:

Allow me and Poncho to commend you on taking such a proactive approach to helping your friends’ dog develop good canine manners, including helping them train their dog not to jump on guests.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I appreciate when folks such as yourself take the initiative to help pet dogs learn proper social skills. Poncho, being a canine that enjoys socializing with many humans, is delighted to show off the “greeting politely” skills he’s learned in our Inquisitive Canine dog-training classes.

Poncho and I agree that your question “What should I say?” is a great way to begin the training process: You’re opening your friends’ eyes to their dog’s behavior, while enlisting them to take part in the decision-making. They might want to follow the same steps as this reader who was having “jumping-to-greet” problems at home with her dog.

Although using your voice is ideal, we recommend you also use nonverbal communication to help teach your friends’ dog to greet politely. In other words, allow your body language to “do the talking” for you. This way, if you prefer not to confront your friends — humans can be touchy about these things — or you don’t have time to discuss it, or the situation doesn’t allow for it, you’ll still be able to teach your friends’ dog how to greet politely.

We know, it’s kind of passive, but it’s simple, effective — and fun! Plus, your friends will probably want to have you over more often.

Whether your friends request something specific or not, you can still use the following steps as your backup plan to help their dog greet you politely.

» Reward the dog only if he or she is sitting, lying down or at the very least has four paws on the floor when greeting you. That’s it! The owner gives petting, praise and food treats for sitting/lying down, etc. Then the final reward is you saying hello. Either a scratch under the chin, a food treat or a “good dog!” from afar.

» Ignore unwanted behavior — and we mean ignore. If the dog gets up and begins to launch him or herself to greet you, then you retreat (or turn away) and ignore the behavior. Make zero eye contact and no pushing or yelling. You can even walk out if you have to. Remember, attention is still attention.

» Practice! Either actively set up sessions with your friends and their dog when you’re wearing your casual clothes, or passively set up practice sessions by arranging to stop by and say hi.

Providing some situational awareness to your friends, along with a little practice, should help set everyone up for success. As the saying goes, “It takes a village.”

Poncho and I thank you for being part of our “village” and taking the time to help dogs become better accustomed to our human environment.

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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