People often make the mistake of meeting dogs in the same way that they would meet a long-lost friend.
They move into the dog’s space and try to give the dog hugs. Some people have even tried to pick up my Shiba Inu because they think he is so cute and so much like a teddy-bear.
Dogs however, have a very different style of communication than we do.
We hug each other to show affection, but when a dog places a paw over another dog’s shoulders (what we see as a hug), it is commonly a dominance gesture. Humping, which is similar to a hug for a dog, is also often used to show dominance.
The good news is, we can train our dog to like hugs by practicing handling exercises with him.
How to Successfully Meet New Dogs
- Do not approach the dog and step into the dog’s space. It is much better to let the dog approach you on his own.
- Walking towards the dog and talking in a high-pitched voice can be very threatening, and may cause shy dogs to become fearful. This may even trigger fear-aggression if the dog feels boxed in, and has nowhere to run.
- Instead, just stand still and use the time to ask the dog owner about his dog and whether you can meet him. During this time, make sure to ignore the dog.
No talk, no touch, no eye-contact.
~~[Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer]
- Not giving the dog eye-contact is especially important because that can also be seen as a challenge.
- Let the dog sniff you and if he is calm and not jumping, you can meet him by giving his chest a brief scratch.
Do not try to pet the dog from above the head.
That is often seen as a threatening gesture and can trigger an aggressive reaction. Instead, approach from below the dog’s head and scratch his chest.
- If the dog gets excited and starts jumping or biting on your hands, non-mark him (No or Ack-ack) and withdraw all of your attention. Fold up your arms, turn away from the dog, and remember not give him any eye-contact.
- Ignoring the dog, will help him to calm down. Once he is calm you can try the meeting again.
Meet a Jumping Dog
If your own dog gets overly excited when meeting people, you can ask them to help you in your training by following the steps above.
It is especially important that they withdraw all of their attention if the dog starts jumping or gets overly excited.
Most people will try to push the dog away, or otherwise engage with the dog physically when he is jumping and biting. This will get the dog even more excited, and he may think that it is turning into a fun game/reward. As a result his jumping and biting behavior will get reinforced and the next time he meets someone, he will jump and bite.
Make sure to let your dog know that jumping and biting when meeting people is unacceptable behavior.
Non-mark him for jumping, and lead him away from the person. You can stop after you have created some space and ask your dog for an alternate command, e.g.Sit. Once he is more calm, you can try the meeting again.
In this way the dog learns that jumping and biting means he doesn’t get to interact with people but being calm will get him attention.
Train a Dog to Meet People
One of the best ways to train my dogs on how to meet people, is to invite some of my friends over for controlled training sessions. In this situation, I have better control over the environment, my friends are more willing to follow the meeting instructions, and they will also stick around for multiple test meetings.
Some dogs may get frustrated when you try to lead them away from the meeting, and escalate their behavior.
They may redirect their frustration onto the leash, or onto you.
What worked best for me in that situation, was to quickly end the meeting, as well as the fun walk. I would just march my dog home at a brisk pace.
It is also important to stay calm when your dog is meeting people.
When I got nervous or stressed, my dog would straight away sense that energy and escalate his jumping and biting behavior.
To calm your dog down, remain calm and just remove him from the area. This will give him a chance to mellow out, away from the exciting stimulus.