Tips For Teaching Your Dog Calm Greetings

Jumping on people is a common greeting of many dogs, but, while perfectly normal for a dog, most humans would prefer their pet keep all four paws on the floor. And especially if those paws belong to a dog or puppy that is going to grow to over 100 pounds.

Dog training tips for stopping a dog from jumping on people by Cincinnati certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBCI know I do a lot of reminding about this but it bears repeating. Remember, dogs are like every other living being when it comes to behavior in that they are constantly learning from their environment what behaviors to repeat and strengthen, and what behaviors to lesson. They make their decisions based upon where the value is for them…and that value is all about the consequences of that particular behavior. If a behavior works to get them something THEY value, then they will continue to do it. If the behavior DOES NOT get them something of value, the frequency of that behavior is going to lessen.

Dogs that continue to jump on humans who walk through the door do so because they are being positively reinforced for that behavior…whether humans see it that way or not. Scientifically speaking, positive reinforcement (R+) is simply a consequence of behavior that is added to the environment that increases the frequency of the behavior. As humans we do not get to decide what constitutes that R+ for our pets, but we can be keen observers to figure out what is happening immediately after a behavior that is of value to our pet so that we can make changes to do three things:

  1. Set the environment up so as to prevent our pet from practicing (and building a reinforcement history for) the unwanted behavior while
  2. Teaching and building huge value for an alternative and acceptable behavior we would rather our pets do and
  3. In the case that our pet does practice the unwanted behavior, we pay careful attention to NOT give any value to that behavior.

Let’s go back to this jumping greeting behavior.

Some of the possible reinforcers for that behavior can be: attention, humans that move and make noise, and release of energy.

The problem that many who have tried to ignore the unwanted behavior have discovered is that a jumping dog – especially a big dog – is pretty difficult to ignore, and with little dogs…well, let’s just say humans are very good at reinforcing little dogs for this greeting. Another problem is that often times there are some people who do not mind a dog jumping while other people do not like it at all. One of the reasons why ‘problem’ behaviors become so strong is because they are intermittently reinforced, meaning sometimes the behavior gets the animal something of value and sometimes it doesn’t. Gambling is a pretty tough habit to kick and that is exactly what this creates. This is why that three step process is so important to solving any behavior issue.

So, how can you prevent your dog from practicing the excited greeting to begin with? Management is very important. With a Great Dane puppy (and her family) I am working with, there is a hallway to their large kitchen/family room space where the puppy stays when her family is away. A gate at that entrance way prevents access to humans which allows for practice of humans ignoring her, staying or moving to the other end of the hallway until she can remain seated. One week of practice of this and her greetings were very different.

Another client taught his dog to station in a bed at the far end of a room, then practiced this with people coming to the door with a high rate of reinforcement, and then was able to practice teaching his dog to walk by his side to greet new visitors (and taught visitors to have calm entrances). The goal would be to practice this with visitors moving more quickly as the dog can continue to succeed.

Always remember, your dog does not do behaviors to be stubborn or bad. Your dog simply does what works for him to get something of value and was not born understanding the wants of humans. It is up to you as its teacher, to teach the behaviors you want to see more. And while you are doing it, enjoy the process!

Can I be of help to you and your pet? Please contact me here!

Dog Training Tip – Teaching Your Dog Calm Door Greeting

Sam wanted to share his thoughts on doorbells and greeting visitors.

dog training tip - teaching dog calm greetings at the door


In other words, what our dog Sam is saying is that from his perspective, he is only doing what works for him to get him something of value. Past history has taught him that excited door greeting behaviors (jumping, barking, and pacing back and forth) causes the door to open and neat people to walk through.

How is that so?

Well, it is called operant learning meaning Sam has learned to repeat (and even strengthen) his behavior based upon the immediate consequence of that behavior in the past.

Teachable moments are all around us. They happen every moment of every day. We are not always aware of it but all of us – including our pets – are learning to continue behaviors or reduce the frequency of behaviors depending on whether the immediate consequence to those behaviors are of value to the animal.

From Sam’s perspective, since the door opening (followed by neat people walking through) occurs just after his excited door greeting behaviors, then surely his jumping, barking and pacing was the cause.

Differential reinforcement of an incompatible behavior (DRI) involves teaching your pet an acceptable behavior that can not be done at the same time as the unwanted behavior – and giving that alternate behavior as much value to the animal (or more) as the behavior you do not want to see. It also involves careful arrangement of the environment so as to try and avoid practice of the unwanted behavior, and, in the event that the unwanted behavior should occur, making sure you do not give value to it.

In the case of Sam’s excited door greeting behaviors, some possible choices for incompatible behaviors may be sitting, laying down, going to a place, or getting a toy.

Remember to teach your dog the alternate behavior first with lots of positive reinforcement, and then teach your dog to do that behavior around the door BEFORE you really need it when guests arrive. Add difficulty only as he can continue to focus.


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