Trainer Tuesday: Calm Greetings, Jumping, Introducing Dog & Baby

Every Tuesday we will be working with our good friend, certified dog trainer Lisa from The Noble Hound, Dog Training and Obedience to answer your dog training questions. If you have a question about your pooch, whether it be leash manners, house training, getting along with other animals or anything in between, email us at info@dreamrescue.ca and we will pick a few questions each week to answer.

Cheryl asked, “What’s the best way to get your dog to stay calm when meeting people? I have a very large dog who doesn’t mean any harm but as soon as anybody so much as walks by us, he jumps up eager to meet. This is especially a problem with kids because of his size.”

Hi Cheryl,
This is a common behaviour in those happy-go-lucky dogs who want to love everyone and everything! The first thing you want to teach your dog while on walks is to not get excited in the event that a person comes into view. Right now, your dog sees a person and probably gets excited way before the human even gets close. Before your dog has a chance to get overly excited, cross the street or move in a different direction while also offering a food reward. This will teach the dog to “cut off” his level of excitement at an appropriate level. Over time, you will notice that your dog’s excitability level will lessen and you will actually be able to get closer and closer to humans on your walks without that immediate excited reaction that your dog is currently displaying. Once your dog is a bit more calm on walks have him sit and stay each time a person passes and reward him for waiting patiently. When you’re confident that your dog can control himself around humans, you can ask him to sit and stay while someone approaches him for a petting. If he bounces and jumps up, ask the person to walk away from the dog. Teach him that the only way he gets attention from humans is if all four feet stay on the ground.

Maria asked, “How can we stop our German Shepherd (1yr) from jumping on us? This mostly happens when she gets excited when we come home or sometimes when we are not paying attention to her….thank you!”

Hi Maria,
That’s a great question! The key is to provide absolutely no attention to a jumping dog. This includes: talking or yelling, eye contact or physical touch. Believe it or not, even yelling “NO” or “OFF” can be rewarding for an excited dog. Sometimes when a dog is extra excited they have a hard time deciphering between an angry human and a human who is having a good ol’ time. Plus, if you’re yelling at a dog, they know that they’re definitely getting your attention! The absolute worst thing you can do is push the dog down or away. This says to the dog “let’s play”. When dogs play they often do so with their front paws and in an exaggerated way (similar to the movements of a human pushing a dog down or away). So, when we start moving our arms in attempt to push a dog down, they think it means Let’s Play!

Your best bet is to turn your back to the dog and if he continues to jump up then walk away. If he follows you keep walking away and go into another room and shut the door for a few seconds. When you come back out make sure to reward the dog for any calm behaviours (with affection or treats); however if the dog persists and jumps up some more, go back into the room for a few more seconds and come back out again. Repeat over and over until the dog realizes that each time he jumps up, he loses a friend. Remember, you don’t need to say anything during this exercise (I wouldn’t even make eye contact with the dog). Less is better in this situation.

Bad habits are hard to break, so be patient and persistent. Your dog will soon learn that jumping up really doesn’t get him far in life. Oh…and make sure that all members of the household and any guests who visit follow these rules. Once the dog catches on and instead of jumping up, starts to offer things like sits and other calm behaviours you can reward with some affection and/or treats! The key is to reward the good and ignore the bad. Good luck!

Trista asked, “What is the best way to introduce our pooch to the new baby when he comes home?”

Hi Trista,
Bring a baby home for the first time is a very exciting and beautiful moment! However, our dogs sometimes don’t share our exact feelings when it comes to a new addition. Some dogs can become quiet stressed out while other dogs don’t seem to care about the new little person in the least bit. Dogs can also be fearful of infants and might bark or growl when the baby gets too close. In cases where the dog is having a hard time adjusting, it’s important for the family to contact a certified dog trainer or behaviorist.

Before the baby is even born, I suggest bringing out one baby item every few days or so for the dog to inspect and get used to. Things like swings and strollers that move, toys that make sounds and bigger items such as baby chairs and cribs can be scary for some dogs, so let the dog investigate these items slowly over time and reward for bravery! Expose your dog to the smaller items such as diapers, bottles, blankets and ¬soothers as well. You can use basic obedience such as drop, give and leave it to teach your dog that these items don’t belong in his mouth. The key is to help your dog build positive associations with the baby items in advance, so that your dog isn’t bombarded and overwhelmed with both a new baby and all of the things that come with.

You can even get your dog used to the sounds that babies make before you bring the baby home from the hospital. You can YouTube “baby sounds” and play them at a level that doesn’t cause your dog any stress. Reward the dog for remaining calm and each day increase the volume just slightly, while continuing to reward the dog for being calm. Over time this will help your dog associate baby sounds with good things (praise and food reward) and will help to desensitize your dog to the various sounds that your baby will be making.

Different dogs react differently towards babies. Regardless, you need to set boundaries for the dog once the baby is actually home. Allow the dog to come up to the baby only when he is calm and reward him with food and affection for doing so. Teach the dog to give you space when you’re nursing, feeding or tending to the baby – this is where basic obedience comes into play. You can send your dog to his bed, give him some commands such as sit/stay or down/stay or occupy your dog with a Kong or another toy while you’re busy with the baby.

Absolutely, make sure that the dog still feels like a part of the family. Now that it’s beautiful outside, include your dog on your family walks with the baby. Doggy daycare is also a good option for hyper or excitable dogs – not only will this drain your dog’s energy but will also keep him stimulated and satisfied. In general, dogs and babies can successfully and happily co-exist, but allow your dog a period of time to adjust and prepare him for the arrival of the little one by introducing him to “baby things” and sounds. Setting boundaries is also very important. Make sure to teach your dog what is acceptable and what is not and be consistent when doing so.

Stay tuned every Tuesday where we will be answering more of your training questions!

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