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The excited, happy, four-legged greeter – and what to do about it!

Text by Linda Steenrod & Dr. Robert Moffatt V.M.D.

Do you have a dog that jumps as part of their greeting?

Spring is here and summer is on the way! Friends and family are out and about and coming over to visit more. And do you, like I, have a dog that jumps as part of their greeting? Some friends are tolerant, but I want my friends to feel welcome without the overly enthusiastic greeting. Jumping on people is a concern with big dogs, but with small dogs as well since they can scratch people or their clothing. Dogs jump to show affection, trust and to welcome, but not everyone may see it that way, especially if they are not prepared for such an enthusiastic welcome. So what to do?

There are some steps you can take initially, before training, and many are “timing” sensitive. Catching your dog at the right moment is important as well as always being conscience of the dog’s safety.

  • Before the dog jumps, put your hands palms-down and crossed in front of the dog’s face. Many dogs will take the hint and not jump.
  • Turn your hip to block the jump, or turn your back on the dog, being careful not to knock the dog over
  • Step forward and invade the dog’s space and the dog will move to accommodate you
  • If the dog has a collar on, and you are beside the dog, hold the collar firmly without bending your wrist for better control
  • Once the dog has jumped, hold the dog’s front legs between the paw/wrist and elbow, and support the dog for longer than the dog would like to be up there, or
  • Distract the dog with a toy, or ball, but do not reward the dog with a toy or treat if the dog has already jumped.

Reward the desired behavior only – when all fours are on the ground!

In the meantime, you can begin training. You can enlist the help of friends, especially those who visit frequently. The most important element of training is to make it positive for the dog and for you, but without rewarding any jumping with pets or treats. Reward the desired behavior only – when all fours are on the ground! Dogs are so loving and so want to please that training can be fun as well as rewarding for both of you. Different steps work with different dogs and different people, so try all or several methods to see which works best for the two of you.

  • Keep your dog leashed for the first 10 to 15 minutes after everyone arrives and things have settled down and the excitement of entering visitors has passed.
  • Teach your dog to sit, even when excited. Start with unexciting situations and gradually raise the excitement level while continuing to command “sit” and “stay” and praise/reward when your dog is sitting and staying.
  • Try to make your own entry quiet and relaxed so as not to encourage the dog’s excitement and therefore possible or probable. This will also help reduce any separation anxiety, since your homecoming is a quiet and expected happening. Ask friends to make a quiet entry for awhile, until the dog is more relaxed in dealing with visitors coming in.
  • Never allow anyone to pet or reward the dog when they are on hind legs only. When the dog sits, or at least has stopped jumping, then pet and/or reward with a treat.
  • Finally, remember that your goal here is to make the situation SAFE and HAPPY for your dog, you, and your guests. So, do not punish the dog for jumping. Punishing your dog for what they think is a friendly greeting may encourage the dog to lose trust in you and in others. Also, a jumping dog is more vulnerable and may be more easily injured. The best correction of jumping is to withhold attention until the dog settles down, when they will be able to focus on and, therefore, enjoy and appreciate the attention even more!

A well and positively-trained dog is a happier dog that will make you a happier dog person, and your guests happier, as well. Make it fun for both of you, and you’ll both be rewarded in many ways.

Want a great read?  Try One Good Dog by Susan Wilson