Calm Greetings: How to Manage Your Dog Around Guests
The holidays are here! That means getting together with close friends and family. This should be a time to enjoy each other's company but if you have an overly excited dog, this could also be a stressful event. The tips below are guided to help if your dog is jumping on guests or over aroused when new people are in your home.
Note: this post is not for dogs who are fearful or aggressive around new people
Jumping on Guests
For some dogs, the pure excitement of meeting a new person can cause the dog to forget his or her impulses. Remember that dogs will continue doing behaviors that work for them. So if they are allowed to jump on people then they are getting reinforced by that interaction. The first step is to prevent this behavior from happening. One of the easiest ways to manage this behavior is to have your dog on leash as the person enters.
Direct your guests to have a seat and to ignore your dog as the initial excitement dissipates. Once your guest is seated, you can ask your dog (still on a leash) for a calm behavior such as a sit, touch, look, etc. If your dog is able to give you this behavior, walk the dog over and allow him or her to greet the guest. If your dog is too excited to give you the behavior you asked for then your dog is still over his or her threshold. Best to work on calming exercises before allowing the introduction.
If at any point your dog starts to jump on the guest, call him or her away and practice more settling exercises before allowing your dog to greet again. Once your dog has become calm around the guest, the leash can be removed.
Some dogs have a hard time settling themselves. In these cases we need to guide them make the right decisions and help them rest. Dogs find actions such as licking, sniffing, or chewing to be relaxing. When guests come over, have a special item to give to your dog that allows for these behaviors. These should be items that are given specifically in the event of visitors. Such items can be a Kong, a lick mat (or a baking sheet with cream cheese, peanut butter, or wet food smeared), a special chew bone, or a blanket rolled up with treats.
If your dog is struggling on focusing on these activities, have him or her on a leash or put her behind a barrier where your dog can still see the guests. Once your dog has calmed from an over aroused state, he or she will have a better ability to listen to cues and regulate his or her actions.
Just like humans, dogs will continue performing behaviors that are rewarded. Remember to praise or treat your dog for any calm behaviors they naturally offer. Once they learn that calmness is rewarded, they will offer these behaviors more often.
Have a safe and stress free holiday!
Kristyn Frohock CPDT-KA, LVT