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Our dog training school, Noble Beast Dog Training (Denver Dog Training), wrote an excellent article in their newsletter on how to prevent over excited greetings. I have copied and pasted it below for all those interested.

I wished I had read this article when our dog was a young pup. Everyone approached us and I let it happen because I thought it made for good socialization. I inadvertently encouraged my pup to get excited every time a stranger came up and petted him (and they usually don't ask!), and I didn't say anything to people because I didn't want to offend them.

And now I have a 95 pd overexcited adolescent greeter at the end of my lead, and his weakness is strangers who rush up to pet him with exciting voices. It doesn't help that he gets A LOT of attention wherever we take him (must be the floppy ears?)... if someone approaches us to pet him without asking, I have started to say "oh sorry, he's in training now" and then get prepared to receive dirty looks. I do wish people would ask first before petting, as we keep being set back in our training. We like to take him out whenever we can, so we sometimes take him to restaurants...even when my dog is lying down quietly on a restaurant patio while we are dining, people walk by and once they see him, people let out the high pitched excited voices and then quickly bend down and give him vigorous rubs....of course, he gets all riled up, and once they walk away, I have to spend my time calming him down and putting him in a Down Stay again. He takes some time to calm down; he's amped up and now on the lookout for the next stranger to give him attention, and if he doesn't get it, he sometimes whines....

For the reasons above, I consider it normal manners for people to ask first before petting someone's dog. With more experience under my belt, I consider it kinda rude if they don't, whereas I wouldn't have given it a second thought before. I don't go up to their human children and start petting them...why would it be okay to do that with someone's leashed dog?

For those also with dogs who are excited greeters, what are your experiences? Thoughts on the article below?

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NOBLE BEAST article;

I knock on the door to my friend's house. The familiar sound of a large dog flinging himself at the door and barking with excitement hits my ears. As my friend begins to open the door I brace for another greeting with Fido. Scratches on my arms and the fresh trail of slime dripping across my face tells the tale of an over excited greeter. "Don't worry he's friendly." Are always the words that are echoed when in the presence of an over excited greeter.

An aggressive dog displays the same enthusiasm for strangers but from the opposite end of the spectrum. Usually snarling, baring teeth followed by a guttural growl and eventually lunging and barking - it is a very scary thing to witness first hand. What both dogs have in common is over arousal. For some reason though, the over enthusiastic greeting behavior has become an acceptable ritual in our human/dog world whereas the latter is frowned upon. Of course an aggressive dog is more likely to bite, however I am just as likely to be knocked over and break a bone due to the greeting from an over aroused happy dog! The real issue here is that neither behavior is acceptable and we need to stop pretending like one is better that the other when in reality it's not.

"Can I pet your puppy?", "What a cute dog, can I say hi?" Phrases commonly heard when you leave your house with your dog no matter the age. When you have a new dog you of course want a well socialized dog. And allowing new people to come over and say hi is a great way to socialize your dog right? WRONG! This is one of the quickest ways to teach your dog that people = excitement. Other people and especially other dog lovers are always out to undermine your training and ruin your hard work. When that stranger comes up to your puppy and begins making squeaky noises and talking in a high pitched tone usually reserved for babies, your dog starts to wiggle, jump, and just get excited in general. People laugh and pet the puppy and reinforce the over arousal and comment on how cute the puppy is. They pet , and chat and eventually leave, usually after the puppy has calmed down and placed their interest somewhere else.

What has this experience just taught your puppy? Your puppy has learned that excited and over aroused behavior gets attention and that sniffing and being calm makes people go away. This is the lesson that you have just taught your dog by allowing this experience. And of course that's not a lesson we want our dogs to learn.

This is where the over arousal behavior starts. Those early days of greeting strangers and being rewarded with the fun of the freak out and the excitement people have to offer. How can we combat this over arousal issue you ask? Well, it's time to put up some personal boundaries. When people comment and ask to come over and pet, or simply just wonder over without asking start by holding your hand up like a stop sign. Trust me on this. If you just talk, people don't pay attention and by the time you say no they are usually already on top of your dog. Once your hand is up say something along the lines of "No, you may not pet my dog. My dog is in training and we are teaching him how to greet people appropriately." You may then at this time hand the person a dog treat and say " However, I would love for you to ask my dog for a sit, and when he sits, please reward him with a treat and then walk away. This would be a big help in teaching him how to greet people in a calm manner." Most people are thrilled to help and happily accept the instructions. If you dog doesn't know how to sit yet you can simply instruct people to drop and treat and walk away instead of petting. When food rewards and wonderful things come from the floor, there is no reason to jump to get anything because there is nothing up there to go after.

Be prepared for the few people who seemingly get offended when you tell them that they can't pet your puppy. When I first got my puppy Sweetwater I had quite a few people be very offended that I would dare tell them "No". I even had one or two ask "Well, why not?" in the most defiant tone they could muster. "Because my dog is not public property." Is always my favorite reply. Remember, this is YOUR dog, and you are the one that has to live with this dog for the rest of its life, not the person who is currently trying to undermine your training. Setting clear rules and boundaries are a healthy part of life and essential to any successful training program.

So with this new found knowledge, go out there and set some rules and boundaries with people. Teach your dog how to sit politely for strangers instead of tackling them. You can thank me later. ;)
 
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