Does your dog get SUPER excited when greeting someone new? Is it really hard for them to hold still? Check out this episode for a simple game you can play with your dog to help them in times like these.Support the show
Hey everybody - thank you for tuning in today. How was your week? Take a minute and think of five successes you had with your dog over the last seven days. Five may seem like a lot but that is less than one per day over the past week. Did they sit on cue? What about a stay when you added a few steps of distance? Maybe you’re working on leave it and you progressed to step 2 or 3 or maybe even you are starting to generalize it to real life scenarios! Regardless it is super important to notice the good and help your mind be motivated to keep working! Also, make sure you’re praising your dog often and telling them how awesome they are. We want them to stay excited about learning too!
Want to know what we’ve been working on? One thing Baxter improved on this week are his greeting manners. He gets excited when someone enters our home or yard and immediately wants to alert bark. I am okay with a bark to let me know someone is here but I want to make sure he will stop when asked and that he is more calm in these situations in general. No need to get worked up when someone arrives buddy.
We had a win this week when my son came home from school. For some reason, maybe because Brayden is so fun and is gone at school all day, when Brayden walks in, Baxter reacts with a loud bark, then gets SO excited to see him. So we practiced that part of our day! I set him up for success by having Baxter on a leash at the time I know Brayden usually arrives home from school. I had a few food rewards ready to go in my pocket. When I saw Brayden’s car drive past our front window I started getting Baxter’s attention on a game like tug or a mini training session with fun tricks. The second the door opened I immediately put a food reward near Baxter’s nose and encouraged a sit, then wait. Once Brayden was in the room, had set his things down and was ready to say hello, I gave Baxter his cue to go say hi. I didn’t stop there. I used a toy to redirect Baxter’s mouth away from licking Brayden and onto a playful item instead so Brayden could pet and say hi to Baxter without the licking that he really doesn’t like. This is a work in progress but I’m counting the wins! I hope you are too. Little by little, we ourselves improve as handlers and our dogs improve as well. It is a journey - enjoy it along the way.
On that note, today I want to talk about greetings. Working on it with Baxter got me thinking about different scenarios and common struggles we face when out with our dogs in regards to seeing other people, dogs or other things that get our dogs attention.
I want to share a few things you can do this week with your puppy to help in these situations. First, if you’ve listened to my podcast before, you’ll know I’m going to say, it is important to think in terms of what do I want my dog to do - instead of, I wish my dog wouldn’t…
It is much easier to teach a dog to do something, than to not do something. I can think of constructive steps to take and even adjust those steps to set my dog up for success. With greetings, take a minute and picture what an ideal greeting looks like to you. As you do so, keep in mind your dog and their personality. I like to make a compromise that works for both of us. If my dog is super active, asking them to hold a sit stay may be really difficult for them. Can they do tricks instead in that moment that allow them to move around and get their wiggles out? Is there a happy middle ground between what I want and what they want? If my dog naturally jumps and mouths people (okay okay, so this is most dogs because they are in fact dogs), let’s switch that to spinning in a circle and shaking a paw or giving a high five. If your dog LOVES belly rubs, maybe we teach them to roll on their back. My ideal is that my dog keeps their feet grounded (or in the air in the case of the belly rub haha) and mouth off of the person they are greeting.
A sit stay, down stay, wait, roll, turn and high five, fetch and drop all meet that criteria. I can even mix up what my dog does for different scenarios! This keeps it fun for the dog as well. The more things your dog knows how to do the more options you have at getting desired behavior and paying the dog well for making good choices.
Let’s revisit the concept of my dog keeping their feet on the ground and mouth off of whomever they are greeting. Those are my criteria. Now let’s find something that works with this that my dog also enjoys.
Here is a simple exercise you can try this week with your dog when it comes to excitable greetings. That may be when they greet a guest or see your kids first thing in the morning! Use this game whenever you need it and watch how your puppy starts to make good choices all on their own.
To start, make sure you have your training pouch on with kibble or other food rewards inside your dog likes.
As your puppy comes running to you (or your guest, or your kids) put the food reward near their nose when they are about a foot or two in front of you and then toss it away from you. Roll it along the ground making it easy for your puppy to follow and chase. This is fun for your dog and does two things. One it keeps their feet on the ground instead of jumping on you because you tossed this food reward BEFORE they jumped (be sure you do that!) and two it keeps their mouth off of you, your guest or your kids because your dog is sniffing along the ground then eating their reward.
Step one complete. Next as your puppy comes back to you after eating their food reward (remember one piece of kibble works great!) repeat the process. Roll another food reward away from you and let them chase after it. Do this 3-5 more times.
Now that your puppy is starting to understand the game, we can expect a little more from them. This time when your puppy returns to you, wait for a sit to say please, or help them with a lure the first time or two so they understand what you are wanting them to do. When they sit, say, “YES” and repeat tossing the food away from you.
When they come back the next time, wait for the sit, count to one, then say, “YES” and toss the food away from you. You may need to go with this one second concept 5-10 times so your dog is patiently waiting in a sit for one second then you say, “YES” and toss the food.
Finally, you can progress this to your dog comes to you, sits on their own, you add additional time with each repetition until your dog is willing to wait 10, 20, 30 seconds for you to say “YES” and toss the food reward.
Now that I’ve taught you this simple game, can you see the behavior we taught your puppy? That’s right! They are now choosing to approach someone, sit to say please and WAIT patiently for something good to happen. We have a very polite greeting. How cool is that?
This works well for that excitable puppy who has a hard time holding still when someone new is around. With all training, I suggest teaching your puppy this game in your home first with people they know, then progress to practicing it with people they don’t know. If you need help with this, we are happy to assist you inside our online puppy school. We love coaching our families one-on-one to help fine tune their handling skills.
That’s it for now. Go give this game a try and have a great week with your dogs! Happy Training!