Greeting a Puppy or Dog - How YOU Can Help With Training | Blogs

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Greeting a Puppy or Dog - How YOU Can Help With Training
Greeting a Puppy or Dog - How YOU Can Help With Training

Have you ever observed how socially-savvy dogs greet each other?  There’s usually no barking or jumping on each other and you won’t see them look each other directly in the eyes/face.  Their tails will be up and wagging as they sniff each other under the belly or around the butt area.  They may rub their bodies against each other slowly as they circle around each other.  When all of this is done, you may then witness an invitation to play, usually in the form of a play bow (front paws out in front and butt up in the air, tail wagging).  And off they go....

Humans would be wise, when greeting a puppy or dog, to practice some of those same behaviors.  Here, however, is the most common scenario I see when I’m out and about:  Dog owner is walking along with a beautiful pup or adult dog on the leash.  Human sees this beautiful dog and heads right over while making lots of excited noise which might sound something like this, “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!   Hello, puppy-pup, you’re so cute, hello, hello, hello!!”  You can probably guess what happens next, right?  The dog on the leash gets excited and worked up if s/he is friendly and socially-open,  begins pulling the owner toward the excited person and may jump on the person.  If the leashed pup is fearful of people, s/he may begin to hide behind the owner’s legs, start urinating in submission or pull on the leash in the opposite direction.

Here at Dances With Dogs Puppy School, one of the most frustrating scenarios reported by my new puppy owners is when people encourage and invite, through their excited voices and lack of boundaries, the new pup to practice jumping up as part of their greeting of humans.  Invariably, when the owner tries to stop the pup from jumping up and acting crazy, the person interacting with the dog says, “Oh, it’s okay. I don’t mind!”  As the owner of a 90-pound hyper Yellow Lab myself, I totally sympathize with my customers.  Each of my new customers gets a lesson on how to control the situation as best they can when this scenario next occurs.  Since we dog owners have no control over the person approaching our pups, I teach my customers how to quickly gain control of their pup by dropping their leash low to the ground and stepping on it.  This way, the puppy cannot get those front paws off the ground and/or onto the excited human seeking to interact with the pup.

As a second line of defense, I also teach my customers  to turn every interaction with humans into a learning opportunity for the pup if at all possible.  So, you’ve got your pup on the leash and you’ve dropped the leash down low to the ground and you’re stepping on it.  Now, you can look up at the approaching person and quickly ask if they’d like to help you train your dog.  If you have treats with you (a MUST when you are training your pup), offer one to the person and tell them to give it to your pup ONLY if the pup performs a behavior (sit, stay, down....whatever it is that keeps your pup in a calm/submissive state).  If your pup doesn’t know his/her commands yet, then simply tell the person that the dog can have attention ONLY if she remains calm with all four paws on the ground.    Ask the person to step back if the dog tries to jump or gets overly excited.  Most people LOVE to help with a pup’s training, and I’ve found that asking for HELP rather than telling an unknown person what NOT to do often works really well, especially with children.  The truth is, every single interaction that your pup has with any human is teaching them SOMETHING....whether it’s to ramp up and get excited, jump up, etc.  So, if we are able to control a situation (at worst) by stepping on the leash and controlling our pup, or transform a situation (at best) by engaging the newcomer in a little training exercise, we’re staying ahead of the game!

At the puppy school, all customers are involved in helping each other with training the pups whenever they encounter each other and/or the puppy students. The “Golden Rule” is “NO Look, NO Talk, NO Touch.”  This applies to any and all pups who are displaying behavior that is not pro-social, such as barking, jumping, pawing and otherwise being in an excited/out-of-control state of mind. Humans don't interact with the pups until they are calm and aren’t vying for attention using undesirable behaviors.  Customers then interact with the pups by “going low.”  By bending at the knees or squating down to give attention, the human is at the pup’s level, which helps the pup learn to keep all four paws on the floor or ground.  The photo accompanying this article shows this in action.

It’s perfectly natural for people to love and enjoy the site of a fluffy new pup out in the community.  I invite anyone reading this to help a new pup learn (or an older dog practice) how to interact with humans appropriately by “acting like a dog” when greeting.  Stay calm.  Use very few or no words. Try not to do anything that will excite the puppy.  Bend down to the pup’s level.  Avoid making eye contact and allow the pup to sniff the back of your hand quietly.  Give the pup a chance to decide whether s/he is comfortable with being petted....and limit your strokes to the side of the body or chest area, avoiding petting on the head.  An unfamiliar hand reaching over the face/head of a pup can set off a negative/defensive reaction as many don’t enjoy being touched or petted on the top of their heads.  If the pup is overly excited, step back so that the pup can’t practice undesirable behavior such as jumping on you.  Wait until they calm down and then approach again, giving attention ONLY if they stay in that calm state.


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