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Teaching Fido to stay down

Teaching Fido to stay down

bowers chWhen dogs greet people at the door, sometimes they want to jump up on guests in an effort to greet them.

To teach a dog to greet people calmly, and without jumping, reward the dog when he has all four paws on the ground. The reward can be food or, for dogs who love to meet people, calm attention from the guest is a good reward.  If the dog tries to jump up, withdrawing human attention makes things clearer to the dog and means having the guest stand still and ignore the dog. As soon as he has all four feet on the ground, he should be rewarded with attention or a food reward. Generally I teach the dog to greet people in the stand position (“four on the floor” is my cue) as I have found this is easier for a dog to master over the sit initially.

If you have a dog who jumps up to greet people, don’t allow anyone to use abusive methods like kneeing the dog in the chest or “alpha rolling” the dog. These methods are out-dated, unkind and can contribute to or create aggressive behaviour in dogs. Just one person can have a very strong negative impact on a pup so always protect your dog.

If your dog is very energetic, teach him a trick like “bow” or “shake a paw” when he meets people. This keeps the dog on the floor and he learns that he only gets greeted once he does the trick. Alternatively, teach the dog to fetch a toy upon your arrival or that of a guest and play a gentle tug or fetch game with him once he brings you his toy.  I’ve found this to be very effective for energetic greeters.

One of the best things I have seen for training polite doorway manners, to a dog who finds food rewarding, is something called the

“Manners Minder” which is also known as the “treat’n’train” (
ntrain). Placed on the floor, it dispenses treats when the operator triggers it with a remote control. It’s easy to operate and to get the timing of the treat right. And the dog can’t get the treat if he is jumping up. The website has video showing how this is done.

Sometimes guests and friends inadvertently reinforce a dog jumping up by petting them and making a fuss of them after the dog has jumped on them because, while they are little, some people think this is cute. It’s easier for a dog to avoid getting into the habit of jumping up in the first place, than to have to unlearn it later when he is bigger and stronger. That said, with consistency in rewards and good timing, any dog can learn to greet calmly.

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