Puppies and puppy breath are two of my favourite things in life. A happy and healthy puppy is full of life, fun and energy. Puppies are such a joy and have quite a zest for life. Being a puppy parent comes with a great responsibility. When we choose to bring a puppy into our lives, we are committing to that puppy for life. As an Canadian Dogs Annual reader, you are prepared to provide the best, natural puppy care and rearing, and this should include a solid, positive puppy training program. Having the healthiest puppy doesn’t mean much if they are ill-mannered and unpleasant to be around.
Puppies are little sponges and easily soak up knowledge and when trained in a positive and fun way are eager beavers to learn. And there is so much to teach a puppy. Puppies should learn how to be confident, social, friendly, being comfortable being handled, to walk nicely on a leash, travel nicely in a car, basic behaviour cues such as sit, down, stay, watch, recall etc., and of course, not jump up on you or your guest during greeting. Today, let’s focus on how to teach a puppy to wait patiently for interaction and petting. But first, why do puppies and dogs jump on people in the first place?
Dogs are social and thrive on our interaction and contact. A happy dog likes to get close, smell us all over, nuzzle our faces and even lick us as a happy greeting. Unfortunately, as dogs get older and bigger, this greeting can lead to jumping up to our faces, body slamming and even knocking us over. As puppy parents we have the opportunity to teach our puppies how to greet people with four on the floor instead of jumping up or knocking us over.
Here are three steps to get you started in teaching your puppy not to jump up on you.
1. Be prepared. Puppies are learning what is acceptable behavior with every interaction. It’s important to remember that and to reward the behavior you want and to reward that behavior often so that your puppy repeats the good behavior vs the behavior you want to avoid. Toss a handful of tiny healthy treats such as dehydrated meat into your pocket every morning. By having treats on you during the learning process, you will be able to reward your puppy often for four on the floor.
2. Be calm and collected when you are greeting your puppy. Puppies are great at mimicking our behavior and emotions. If you would like to teach your puppy to be calm and most importantly, keep four on the floor, keep your greeting low-key.
3. Teach your dog a reliable sit behavior and reward your puppy often for sitting. Sitting before meals, sitting before tossing the ball, sitting before opening the door etc. Now, when you go to say hello to your puppy, calmly ask him to sit. As soon as he does, hand him one of the tasty treats from your pocket as you squat down to gently pet his chest. When your puppy jumps up on you, and he probably will, quickly stand up and ignore your puppy. Don’t say “off” or “no” or even sit again, just ignore him. Wait. Wait for him to offer his sit behavior, and again, he probably will. As soon as he does, squat down and gently say hello with a light neck scratch. If he jumps back up, repeat. What your puppy will learn is that when he’s sitting and calm, you are saying hello, the moment he jumps up, you stop and ignore him. This is a very powerful concept for him.
Teaching your puppy to keep four on the floor for family can be quite successful by following the steps above. Teaching your puppy how to keep those toes on the floor for guests and strangers can be a bit trickier.
Here are four steps to get you started.
1. Management is your friend. Unlike yourself, guests tend not to follow the rules. For puppies, this can mean learning that guests are a free-for-all and the four on the floor rules do not apply. But, this does not have to be the case if you have a good management plan in place for each guest interaction. The priority is to prevent your puppy from launching himself at your guest. In order to accomplish this task, put your puppy on his harness and leash before your guests arrive. This will allow you to control where your puppy is at all times and prevent any inappropriate jump ups.
2. When your house guests arrive, instead of an immediate greeting, keep your puppy with you and practice some of his obedience behaviors such as sit, watch and stay. Reward him for his seller performance and attention. By not allowing your puppy to greet your guests right away and rewarding him for paying attention to you, you are teaching your puppy that you are much more exciting that then guests.
3. Ask your guest to reach down toward their shin and wiggle their fingers. Walk over with your puppy to the guest and tell your puppy to go say hello. As your puppy starts to sniff your guest, tell your puppy how smart he is and give him a treat. Repeat this scenario, but start to increase the time your puppy is sniffing the guest’s fingers and ask your guest to also start to scratch your puppy under his chin. By allowing your puppy to slowly say hello, then come back for you for a reward, the guest excitement level is dropped and polite greeting is on the way!
4. Once your greeting practice is over, keep your puppy leashed with you to prevent any random jumping on guest behavior. This is temporary until your puppy becomes a master at keeping four on the floor. Don’t expect him to become a master overnight, polite greeting generally takes a long time to master. If you do not wish to have him leashed with you, you can use another management tool such as tethering him in sight, baby gated, or put him in his crate.
Teaching your puppy not to jump on you or your guests takes commitment, follow-through, management and kindness. You are teaching your puppy to do a behavior that is not totally natural for them. By teaching him what behavior you prefer and ignoring him for jumping up, he will start to realize your preferred method of greeting. With regular practice and great management, you will eventually have the polite greeter you always dreamed of.
Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs using humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos. raisingyourpetsnaturally.com