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How to Teach Your Dog to Greet Guests Politely: Training Tips and Techniques

It’s very common for dogs to jump up in a greeting context. Why? Because generally dogs want to get closer to our faces. When you pair this with a lot of excitement you end up with a dog that is jumping over and over. And us humans don’t consider to be very polite.

The main problem with exuberant jumping is that someone could get hurt. This is what we want to avoid. But what do we do? If our dogs are just doing what comes naturally to them, how can we stop it?

The first thing we need to do is manage, which will prevent the rehearsal of the jumping. At the very least you’ll need to have your dog on leash. You can also use a gate or a crate. If you end up using a crate or a gate you’ll want to give your dog something special to work on. (Otherwise you may end up with a lot of frustrated related barking.) Once your dog is done with their item, there is a good chance that their excitement will be less and that they will do better with the training that comes next.

The second thing is the training part. We want to teach our dogs that jumping is no longer the best option when it comes to greeting. To do this, pick a behavior you’d prefer for your dog to do. This could be a sit, stand or even a hand target. These behaviors will be incompatible with jumping. (Meaning that they cannot successfully do the behavior and jump at the same time.) Once you’ve chosen your behavior you’re ready to start communicating to your dog that only this behavior will work to get to greet the person. It’ll be messy at first, but once it starts to make sense you’ll see it get easier and easier.

Practice the behavior with other members of the family. Do this every time someone arrives home from work or school. Be ready to teach your dog too that jumping will get them farther from the person. To do this, use the leash and say, “too bad” the moment a jump happens and gently move your dog away 5 or so feet. Wait 30 or so seconds and try again. This can be effective because your dog wants to get closer to the person, not farther.

The piece of the puzzle that many people either do not know about or accidentally skip is practicing warm verses cold. Warm means that your dog has had a few repetition in a row. (Those reps will increase the likelihood that your dog does the correct behavior.) But when someone does show up randomly your dog will be “cold.” To help your dog be able to do this warm or cold, you’ll want to practice gradually increasing time between reps. For example, if you have your guest step out for 10 seconds and then return, your dog will still be “warm.” If your dog succeeds, have the guest step out for 20 seconds and then repeat. If your dog succeeds, keep increasing the amount of time that the guest is gone for.

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