It's nice to have a friendly, go lucky dog that loves everyone, and surely most people don't mind - or do they?
Well, your friends and family may not say so, but an overly excited greeting can be a bit overwhelming, especially if the guest is not a dog-lover. Sometimes the pawing and jumping can even hurt someone.
So what can you do about it? Most of the people we meet with overly excited dogs don't realize that this behavior is something they have taught their dog over time. They think the dog is just naturally hyper or super friendly. But the behavior described above is anything but natural. If your dog is greeting you, or other people (or even other dogs) in this way, he has been conditioned over time. More than likely, he has received positive feedback, when he acted this way in the past. For example, jumping and scratching at his owner or visitors has resulted in him getting attention. He was petted in return for it. He became the center of attention, even if the attention, later on, may result in negative attention to his behavior.
So now what? Can you break the pattern and recondition the dog?
The good news is: Yes you can!
It may take a little time, and certainly some effort and determination on your part, but dogs can learn new behavior very quickly, as long as the owner is consistent in teaching and expecting it.
1. Start with yourself
Start expecting calm behavior whenever you come home. This can be challenging for most dog owners because they just love to come home to loving enthusiastic fur-babies.
However, if you allow your dog to greet you in an overly excited way, it is much harder to condition him to behave otherwise with strangers.
The best way to curb his initial excitement is to ignore the dog, whenever he is in an excited state. Do not talk to him, and please, do not pet him when he is in this way! When he jumps on you, rather than pushing him off you, or stepping backward, step into him.
Watch our YouTube video on this technique:
2. Require calmness when walking up to strangers
When you are out walking your dog, do not allow your dog to walk up to strangers when he is pulling or jumping. The easiest way to discourage the dog to do this is to walk him in the other direction for a few steps until his attention reverts back to you. Walk forward again if he is quiet. You should practice this on your daily walks. This technique will take some time at first, but you will soon reap the benefits.
See how this works for Jim with Abbey, an 8-month-old Labrador Retriever that had learned to associate excitement with greeting strangers:
3. Visitors to your home must not engage with your dog upon arrival
For a while, until he has learned to associate calmness with greetings, ask your friends and family to ignore your dog, when they come into your home. They should not speak to the dog, not pet him, and not look directly at the dog.
Once the dog has calmed down, then the person can give attention. If the dog gets overly excited again or invades the person's personal space, you as the owner need to take control of the dog. This may mean to tell the dog to get back or lay down on this bed.
Again, this is best taught in a teachable moment environment, meaning practice with someone that is willing to help you, rather than waiting until someone comes over that may not even like dogs.
Remember it takes calmness to teach quiet calm behavior in your dog, so keep the sessions short, and don't try to train your dog, when you notice yourself being frustrated or angry.
It took some time for your dog to learn the old behavior, and it will take time to condition him to the new, quiet way to greet and interact with you and others. Consistency is the key in all behavior modification.
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Until next time: Keep your Paws on the Road.
Another articles that you may like on the subject: The Power of Pause