I would bet quite a bit of dough that all of us want our puppies to grow up to be safe, friendly dogs who are comfortable around strangers. I would bet the same amount that none of us want our puppies to grow up to be high-powered, spring-loaded greeting machines every time you walk down the street.
It’s a balance. We want safe, friendly and comfortable – and we need polite and under control as well.
The trick is to start your good habits now. This week, practice polite greetings.
A polite greeting has three parts.
THE SET UP: Make sure puppy is doing something nice at the moment you allow him to greet. This could be eye contact, a hand touch, a sit, or simply being calm on a loose leash.
- Ask your ‘stranger’ to wait to interact with your puppy until you say it’s okay. You can say something like “We’re practicing good manners. Can you help?”
- If your puppy is too excited about the ‘stranger’ to walk nicely with you and wait for permission to greet, it’s okay to help them be correct by luring him with very tasty treats. Bring him closer to the ‘stranger’ using food, then ask for (or lure) a sit. Reward the sit with two or three tasty treats delivered one after the other, and then, while puppy is paying attention to you, give him permission to greet the ‘stranger’. This step will get easier with repetition.
***PRO TIP: For enthusiastic puppies, it is important for them to learn that they do not always get to say hi. Some of the time, instead of letting puppy greet, call puppy away with you instead. REWARD! It’s just as important for puppies to learn how NOT to greet.
THE GREET: Let puppy enjoy a nice, managed interaction with the ‘stranger’.
- If puppy is really wild about greeting and becomes over-aroused/jumping/face-seeking, ask the ‘stranger’ to hook a thumb through the collar to gently prevent pup from defying gravity. You can also step in and feed a couple of treat nice an low while puppy is greeting to help keep him calm. For excited and enthusiastic greeters it is generally better for the food to come from you than from the ‘stranger’.
- If puppy is reluctant to greet, have the ‘stranger’ encourage the pup by being low, side-on, using a sweet tone of voice, and perhaps softly patting the ground or their leg to attract puppy. With a shy pup, do not have the ‘stranger’ hold out food to tempt pup to come toward them. However, it is okay for the ‘stranger’ to give puppy some tasty treats once they do choose to approach. Don’t push it though. If puppy is not interested in interacting, that’s okay for now.
THE GETAWAY: Make sure that you are rewarding pup for leaving the ‘stranger’ and coming with you.
- Ask your ‘stranger’ to stop interacting with puppy as soon as you call them away.
- Once puppy has had a nice little greet and is winding down a little, call them away. When puppy turns to look at you, start praising and moving away. As you are moving away from the ‘stranger’ you can be very generous with your rewards.
~ If puppy is enthusiastic about greeting, she does not need to be given treats by the ‘stranger’. She does, however, need great rewards from you, before and after (and sometimes even during) the greeting.
~ If puppy is shy about greeting, it is okay if the ‘stranger’ gives her some tasty treats while they interact.
Once you have the basic structure down, you can mix things up a bit. Have the ‘stranger’ be more exciting, maybe even speaking in a higher pitched tone. Try with a different ‘stranger’. Practice in different places. Ask for more polite behavior before greeting.