Thursday, 26 March 2009

How to greet your dog

This month's question for D For Dog readers is here folks:

[Name] = Michal
[County] = Israel
[Country] = Israel

[Training Question] = my friend has a 4 years old dog that sees me as a 'step mom'. A few months ago I adopted a puppy. Both dogs are very friendly and playful with other dogs. However, whenever we met, when her dog came to greet me- my puppy initially tried to get between me and him which led to her dog getting upset and wanting nothing to do with us for the rest of the meeting- no matter how hard my puppy tried to play with him afterwards. How can I solve it? Obviously both dogs acting jealously because of me and we'd like to meet without causing anyone of them stress.

This is an interesting question, as I feel that what we’re dealing with here is the human expectation of how the dogs should be greeting you. There is no mention of aggressive behaviour, so see that as a plus at least.

The dog sees you as a ‘step mom’? The dog I’m sorry to say does not see you as a step mom at all. You see your self as a step mom, and you are I feel overly humanising the whole greeting ritual and process. Social etiquette varies widely throughout the world of course, but I believe I’m right in saying that we all have an immediate and polite way of acknowledging each other (as humans) with either a hand shake, a hug, a kiss, a nose rub and so on. If you’re lucky you might get all at once!

How do dogs greet when they first meet up? I see no kissing, hugs, maybe a nose rub if I’m lucky. Dogs are far more cautious when meeting, and will curve into each other and sniff the opposite ends quite often. One dog may sit down, or become submissive and lie down. It varies a good deal depending on the confidence/dominance levels of each dog.

The point is then that we both have different ways of meeting and greeting as two distinct species. We often encounter complications when we try (and expect) the dog to meet us in a human way, and not in keeping with its own kind. As we are (supposedly) the more intelligent of the two species, we shall need to adopt the way of the canine and not of the human when greeting, and to try and save ourselves getting the dog too worked up upon initial greetings.

I suspect you have developed an excitable routine in meeting your friend’s dog prior to ownership of the pup, when the pup saw the excitable exchange, it moved in between you both as a Calming Signal to help calm things down. I am guessing a bit here but I think I’m onto something.

The best advice I can give is to turn the heat right down on your greetings ritual, and to actually ignore them until both dogs are calm and ready for a greeting that is controllable and more relaxed.

Asking them to sit for the greeting is ideal as the dog will be less likely to jump and become over excitable. If they break that position and become too excited, then again go back to the ignore until they are ready to be sat again. Leads on both dogs to begin with can also help calm the situation. This allows you to remove one or both dogs into a quieter space for a minute until calm returns.

Be consistent and determined in your approach, and things should settle quite nicely. It’s a matter of self-control for us as humans, and guiding the dog’s behaviour into a better place through us managing our own impulses.

I sincerely hope that helps you in the right direction.


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