Training a Dog to Stay Calm When Meeting Peopleby Connie Jankowski
You know the drill: A new person passes you on the street and your dog goes crazy. As the person gets closer your dog "greets" by jumping and spinning, howling with excitement. Your efforts to settle the dog are useless, and he is so stimulated that he doesn't even hear you tell him to sit. Instead, he jumps on your friends and acquaintances -- to your embarrassment and their annoyance.
Get a Grip
Unless you change the dog's behavior you will soon have fewer friends, and you run the risk of someone getting hurt. A large dog can knock a person over, and even small dogs can inflict pain. Scratches on the legs, bruises and even dog bites can occur when dogs jump on people, so don't ignore the offensive greetings. You can correct the them with behavior modification, socialization and training. Consult a professional if the dog is extremely excitable, or if the behavior doesn't change with your own efforts.
Your dog's behavior may be related to dominance. The dog sees himself in charge of his environment, and he responds to all people and pets with a need to establish his rank. It's very important you make sure the dog understands that you are the pack leader. An animal behaviorist can help you with this, beginning with exercises to make the dog submit to you in various situations. However, you must be cautious because adult dogs may not initially accept the role change, and the exercises may backfire or cause injury.
One way to help your dog learn to behave during greetings is to practice basic obedience skills, such as sit, down and heel in public places. Use food reinforcers to hold the dog's attention and to provide rewards for good behavior. Give your dog a command in the presence of other people and reward him if he responds correctly. Determine the distance where the dog will comply, perhaps starting with a 15-foot distance from people. Shorten the distance in small increments until he obeys your commands, even when near people. Practice with friends, and set your goal for the dog to sit and down, even when a person is standing next to you.
Your dog's hyper-reaction to people or other dogs could stem from a lack of socialization. Enroll in a dog obedience class for a safe and controlled environment. Your dog should initially keep a distance from other dogs and people, but your goal over time should be to allow the dog to interact with others. Practicing basic obedience commands in the class will help to reinforce your position as pack leader, and it will teach your dog to focus on your commands, even when distractions tempt him to misbehave. A "hyper" dog can be brought into control, especially when his enthusiasm stems from a friendly reaction to seeing new people.
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