First impressions are crucial, and not all dogs possess the same social graces when meeting new people. Problems in this area are sometimes difficult to address, but a few simple tips can help your dog achieve better people-greeting manners.
Start Introducing People Early and Often
In order to develop socially acceptable responses, dogs must be properly exposed to stimuli and experiences in a positive way. They need practice meeting people to learn that jumping, barking and other rude behaviors aren’t an acceptable way to say hello. Ideally, they start practicing these social skills in puppyhood.
According to renowned veterinarian and dog training expert Dr. Ian Dunbar, puppies should meet 100 different people by the time they’re 12 weeks old, and the people should be as diverse as possible, consisting of different ages, races, sizes and physical abilities. Adult dogs may be frightened by unfamiliar things, so early exposure to human diversity is the first step in developing positive behavioral and social skills.
If you have a puppy, try to introduce her to new people daily. Maybe you could shop with her in stores that allow dogs, take her for walks in a busy neighborhood or take her with you when you go visit friends and family. Tell her to sit before you allow strangers to pet her, and give her tasty treats from Freshpet if she stays seated during petting. This teaches her that “four on the floor” (four paws on the ground at all times) is the rule when meeting new people.
Understanding Your Dog’s Reaction to New People
If you’re training an adult dog with bad people-greeting manners, start by observing the way your dog acts around people. Does he act overly friendly by jumping and wagging his tail at light speed, or is he likely to growl, bare his teeth or even lunge? If it’s the latter, this is actually defensive dog behavior in action. It looks aggressive, but it actually comes from fear. Defensive dogs need specific training and exposure practice to learn proper people-greeting etiquette. It’s best to work with a trainer and be patient.
Although overly friendly dogs aren’t scary to most people, it’s still important to exercise caution and introduce good training protocols. An excited, jumpy dog can easily knock down a child or scare a dog-phobic adult, making this behavior potentially problematic in addition to being annoying.
Dealing with the Jumper
If your dog jumps on new people, temporarily limit his interactions with strangers to a handful of chosen friends who understand dog training. Greet them one at a time with your dog on a leash. If your dog jumps on your friend, have your friend completely ignore your dog and walk away while you stay in place holding the leash. They should not yell “off” or push your dog to the ground, as both actions can seem rewarding to your attention-seeking, friendly dog. For a dog who wants attention, being ignored is much more of a “punishment” than being scolded or shoved.
If your dog keeps all four paws on the floor, your friend should reward him with lavish attention and petting. If those front paws leave the ground again, your friend should immediately stand up and walk away in silence. This teaches your dog that jumping doesn’t get him what he wants. Further reinforce the idea that jumping isn’t a good choice by having your friend give him some treats when he has all four paws on the ground.
If you practice consistently, your dog will soon make the connection between keeping four on the floor and getting the attention he craves. After he masters this training, introducing your dog to new people will be something you look forward to.