Manners Matter — Teaching Your Dog Polite Greetings

At some point, everyone has been greeted by an excited, jumping dog. This can happen with an overzealous puppy who may have forgotten their manners, and it can even happen with older dogs who are simply excited to meet new friends. Although it may seem like a difficult behavior to change, here is some insight on why dogs jump and how we can remedy this unwanted behavior.

Why do dogs jump?
Dogs jump for a variety of reasons, with the following being the most common:

  • Jumping is a natural behavior that dogs exhibit when interacting with other dogs.
  • A dog may have been rewarded for this behavior at some point without the owner’s knowledge, so – in a way – the dog has been “trained” to jump.
  • A dog is excited and does not know any other way to show it than jumping for joy.

What do we do about it?
The immediate reaction when a dog jumps is to say “no” or “off” while pushing the dog off and away. This does not sound very rewarding — but to a dog, it can be great fun. The dog jumping up at you was most likely seeking your attention and now they are getting it. Pushing a dog away is a form of attention even though it may not be the attention the dog initially wanted. When working with this issue, it is instead suggested to remain quiet and turn your back. Try to be as boring as possible. You may find it helpful to cross your arms in front of your chest with your hands tucked into your sides to help you be as uninteresting as you can be. As soon as the dog has all four paws on the ground, use your marker, and then reward the dog.

What is a marker?
When training a jumping dog, it is helpful to have a verbal marker or loaded clicker. A verbal
marker is a word or sound that when spoken, it means the dog did something correct and is being rewarded. A loaded clicker works in the same way, and the “click” is the sound that “marks” the behavior. The click or verbal marker is associated with a treat or reward, which incentivizes the good behavior. Keep in mind that rewards may vary as every animal is an individual. What motivates one dog may not motivate another.

What about house guests?
During training it is extremely important that everyone who comes into the house understands that your dog is in training. Make sure to politely explain to guests that you are working on greetings and how their reactions can help or hinder the process. This is very important, because when your guests reward the jumping with attention or what the dog may perceive as positivity, the training has to go back to square one.

Another great tool for training is a time-out. If a dog relentlessly jumps to the point they may be scratching you unintentionally, simply leave the room without acknowledging the dog. Wait one to two minutes and then re-enter the room. Repeat the process if the dog continues to jump. If the dog has all four paws on the ground, use your marker and then reward.

One more thing
Watch out for extinction bursts! An extinction burst is when being ignored amplifies the unwanted behavior. In other words, things get worse before they get better. This is the dog version of a temper tantrum. An extinction burst is your dog’s last effort to continue to get away with this behavior that they have been practicing. But don’t let it hinder your training efforts. Please make sure to continue what you are doing because it is working! With a bit of repetition and training, your dog will be politely greeting you and your guests in no time.