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How do you calm a dog when he meets new people?

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Ski has made a lot of progress in behavior since we first started using positive training techniques. He has some nice default behaviors, sitting if he wants something, and lying down if he REALLY wants something. And rolling over for good measure sometimes. He'll do these things first whenever we start a training session, when he wants to go outside, and when we feed him.


But whenever we are walking, or playing in the yard, and a brand new person enters the scene, he seems to think the appropriate behavior is to runrunrun to them and jumplickrolloversquirm all over them. The jumping is especially worrisome, since he'll do it to kids and little old ladies alike. He loves meeting people, more than anything else, including cheese.


And I have NO idea how to start working on this. If he was anxious or frightened, I could work with that, but this boundless enthusiasm has me stuck. He doesn't lose his head completely, but people walking by him is like having a great juicy steak sitting on a 3-foot tall table right in front of him, it's just too tempting not to go for it. I'm not sure how to dial down the intensity of the encounter to start building the proper behaviour.


One thing we are doing is making sure he follows proper behavior when greeting us. He has to sit and/or lie down before we will release him to slobber all over us. That seems to be working well so far, but I'm not sure how to take that to the next step, to build up to the meeting random people on walks scenario. Any ideas?


In the meantime, if there's a better way to manage new people encounters than just holding his leash while he pulls towards them, please share.

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Have you worked on this with him specifically by setting up the situation with someone Ski knows well "showing up" and teaching him exactly what you want when that happens?


That's where I would start.


There are a couple of ways that you could go with that. You could use a sit-stay until released or a down-stay until released. You could use a hand touch greeting.


Dean is the same way. He loves greeting people more than anything. I've used this to my advantage by having him get up on his hind legs to give people hugs as a reward for working with me in situations that make him nervous. It's actually a pretty cool desire for a dog to have if you put it on cue and make it work for both you and the dog - and the people that your dog meets.


He also knows "off" so that people who prefer not to greet that way can reach down to pet him instead.


Because he loves to do this so much, I put the behavior under stimulus control - meaning that I taught him to jump up and hug when cued to do so. The nice thing about this is that it makes his hugs a lot calmer because it's something he knows.


With people who enjoy getting hugs from him, I will cue him to sit or down and then release him to go give his hugs.


Because this is something that he is so enthusiastic about, it took careful training, but it is very nice.


If you want more details on how I went about doing this, I'd be happy to share. This isn't the way that most people go about changing this behavior from a problem to a joy, but it has worked great for me and I love the results.

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Get Ian Dunbar's book called After You Get Your Puppy and read the chapter on Socializing on Walks; see http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB721


Essentially, your pup should be encouraged to sit and wait patiently to meet strangers. Dunbar encourages you to take treats with you on your walks/outings and pass them along to strangers to offer your dog; this will build upon the training exercises you do at home and help your dog become polite with everyone.


What I also thought was particularly interesting was teaching your young dog restraint/calmness when on walks. Usually we think of walks as social times when physical, mental, emotional etc. stimulation is encouraged in order to tire a young dog (esp a border collie) out. But Dunbar says that you should take some time-outs on your walks to sit and read with your dog at your feet. This way he/she learns to respond to your silent commands of 'settle'. They can experience the world as it goes by rather than run up to it.


I'm sure others may have more ideas for you too,

Good luck,


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I have a highly excitable dog who loves meeting people and interacting with them more than anything in the world. Ruby is now 4 years old, so I expect I will be working with her all her life. What I have done with great success is to tell anyone who wants to pet her NOT to TOUCH her in any way until she is sitting. I find most people to be very coorperative about it. Often she will zoom up to someone and sit on her own, but sometimes she forgets.


Kathy Robbins

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first step would be to calm yourself. Make sure you really are calm through and through. Be patient with your dog, that's the key. And, as dificult as it may be, try to convince the guest to be calm too. When I first started associating my Border Collie with people, sometimes i'd make them wait at the front door for five long minutes until Bindy would calm down enough, then they'd come in and I'd give her a task to distract her from jumping up on them, like make her sit-stay while I handed a treat to the guest (visible to Bindy) for the guest to give to her as long as she remained sitting calmly. Again, that's just my experience, and I'm in no way, shape, or form a dog expert, more like a just a dog...period. :rolleyes:


If you look at my dogs picture below, you can probably tell from their faces that Tink and Layla are naturaly calm and comfortable, so they are a breeze with newcommers, but Bindy, as you can see in her face, is intense and crazy eyed, and takes constant working with... but it is more than rewarding.

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BTW AdmiralGonsiorow... your avatar puppy is the cutest thing I've seen in a while!

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Jin has been taught to sit still until he's told 'visitors' or scootch'. If he get's rambunctious he is give, "Be a gentleman' which he does very well. That means sit and be still. I also don't allow anyone to touch him until he's sitting quietly.

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Kristine, I would love some more information on how you taught Dean to jump and hug on cue. I think Ski would take to that very well. You say Dean knows 'off' for people who don't like the hugs, how did you train that?


Ailsa, I'll have to try that book reading thing next time I go on a walk. It sounds like a good habit to build for him.


We don't get a lot of visitors at our home ( a grand total of 1 since we've had Ski), so most of our experiences with meeting other people comes from walks and trips to Petco. Since I take him to Petco every Saturday for the puppy playtime seminar, I may ask the trainer to help me teach him. It's hard for me to tell people I don't know how to interact with my dog, especially when I'm not 100% sure what they should be doing, but that's my hangup, not his.


Thanks JBlaylock. The plotty look in his eyes scares me.

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