Teach Your Dog to Greet People Politely

Teach Your Dog to Greet People Politely

When guests enter your home, does your dog jump on them? Would you prefer that your dog politely sit? After all, even if your dog is friendly, it can easily injure guests with its jumping. Your dog might knock a guest over, breaking a hip or worse. Its paws and claws can tear a guest’s skin or clothing. Have you noticed that some of your family or friends rarely or no longer visit? If so, it may be because your dog mauls them when they do.


You have probably noticed that your visitors have learned some coping responses to your dog’s overly enthusiastic greeting ritual. Some of your guests may enthusiastically welcome your dog, seemingly enjoying the interaction. They are enablers; they are encouraging your dog’s undesirable behavior. Other guests are obviously not happy with your dog’s behavior; but, they are unsure of what is acceptable or not to you in the way of corrections. Trying to reach a compromise between choking your dog to death or having the dog maul them to death, they look at it, tell it no, and may even use their hands to deflect its jumping. Either way, to the dog, it is winning the attention trifecta.


Despite all your best efforts to stop your dog, does it still jump every time someone crosses your threshold? Do you have to hold the dog back tightly so it cannot achieve lift off? When that does not work, do you find yourself trying to wrestle your dog unsuccessfully from atop your guests? If this sounds remotely familiar, you need help.


The first thing you need to do is accept that whatever you have been doing is not working. Most owners know why their dog is jumping. It is jumping for attention. To stop the jumping, all you need to remember are two basic principles: (1) If you reward your dog for jumping, it will keep jumping; and, (2) If you do not reward your dog for jumping, it will stop jumping, eventually.


Visualize what you want your dog to do when guests come in the door. You should think that you want your dog to sit calmly to greet guests. Does your dog know to sit on command? If it does, you need to help your dog generalize the sit to all people, all of the time. If it does not, you have to teach it to sit first.


The best way to teach your dog is to work with a trainer to teach your dog basic commands. (The trainer should use positive training methods.) Once your dog learns the basic commands, ask your dog to sit every time it approaches you. Your dog needs to learn to sit automatically in front of humans. Correctly rewarding your dog is a skill. It is not about being a Pez dispenser and doling out treats nonstop. You need to vary your dog’s rewards randomly. Your trainer can help you with this.


You can practice this inside your home and in your fenced yard. Once your dog is sitting every time it approaches you, go in and out the doors to your home and encourage your dog to sit calmly before you give it attention or another reward. Next, ask close family and friends (the ones who love you enough to visit you in spite of your dog) to help you generalize the dog’s automatic sit to other visitors.


There are two scenarios in which this new calm sit comes in handy. One is with family members and friends who visit your home; the other is for everyone else anywhere else in the big wide world.


Review: Teach Your Dog to Greet People Politely


  • To avoid rewarding your dog for jumping up, be sure your dog does not receive any attention at all for jumping up. Jumping should signal an immediate and complete end to any interaction with the dog.


  • No doubt your dog may occasionally jump as the two of you work to develop its new automatic, calm sit. If your dog jumps up on you, turn 180 degrees or more. Do not look at, touch or talk to the dog while it is jumping. You should find the turn causes your dog’s paws to fall off your body. If the dog jumps again, repeat. If turning is inadequate, turn and walk away. Once your dog stops jumping, turn back to it and ask for a sit. If it sits, reward it. If the dog pops up again, turn around and walk away again. Keep in mind that the longer your dog has been exhibiting this behavior, the longer it will take to extinguish it.


  • An alternative to the turning method is to use a leash to teach your dog a more appropriate greeting. You secure your dog to a 6-foot leash and, with a carabiner, attach it to a heavy piece of furniture, or create a tether station by screwing an eyebolt into a wall stud and clipping the tether to it. Once your dog is on its tether, approach it. If your dog leaps around or up in greeting, stand still and wait until your dog calmly sits and then reward it. Anytime your dog starts to act up, stop and stand still. You want to be close enough to touch your dog but not so close it can put its feet on you.


Initially, most dogs resume jumping up when petted. If this happens, step back out of the dog’s range and wait for it to sit again. You may have to repeat this approach/withdraw exercise numerous times before your dog understands that jumping up makes you go away and that, when it sits, you approach.


More than likely, there are enablers lurking in your immediate circle who may say they do not mind the dog jumping on them. If you do not prepare for this eventuality, it will, at the very least, confuse your dog and, at worse, erase all your hard work. To prepare for an enabler, train your dog to jump up on cue. The cue should be distinct. I use my open hands to pat myself on the chest and say “jump” to let my dog know I want it to jump up and put its paws on me. If your dog understands it is only allowed to jump when cued, the enabler’s actions will not thwart all your hard work.


If a tether is not immediately available, and you substantially outweigh your dog, you can use a six-foot leash. You should attach the leash to your dog’s collar as usual. Hold the loop end of the leash in one hand with your arm hanging down at your side. If your dog is beside you, allow the leash to touch the floor between you and your dog. Place your foot on top of the leash where it meets the floor and shift your weight onto the leash, this should prevent your dog from jumping up.


As with most types of training, your success depends on consistency, patience, repetition and time.

Donna Malone
Behavior Consultant and Trainer
(901) 488-9238