Meet and greet guests

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jun 23, 2014, 09.50 PM IST

We love our dogs. But, do our guests/visitors love our dogs too? Well, it might not always be the case. So, our dogs need to learn how to accept our visitors and greet them in a way that works for our friends.

When our puppies come running to us and jump on us, our hearts melt and we shower them with love. Before we know it, that puppy has become a 25-30 kg dog and is still jumping on us. Now it might not be pleasant, but our hearts don’t let us do anything about it. After all, coming home to a dog that is overjoyed is one of the great pleasures of having a dog. He makes us feel loved and important.

But this very behavior becomes an annoyance when dogs decide to welcome the guests in a similar manner. Our guests may not be dog lovers. They may be old or frail and unable to handle ‘jumping dogs’. On most occasions our guests dress up to visit us. And there goes our dog, professing unconditional love to them, in the only way he knows — the way we taught him — by jumping and licking them. Now comes the arduous task of untraining a dog. Let me admit, right off the bat, that I too struggle with this problem. The key is consistency and when members at home and guests are not consistent with the rules, behaviours are hard to change. When different people give mixed messages to dogs, it’s very confusing for them.

The first step is to start training the dog. When you enter the house, say a low key, “Hi doggy!”. No exuberant entrances. If your dog starts jumping on you, turn away and walk to some other room. Leave your bags behind. Wash your face. Put the kettle on. Basically do anything but engage your dog. After some initial confusion, your dog will calm down. Only then, pet the dog. I am, in no way suggesting not to pet your dog. I am just saying, delay it a bit. The pay-off will be massive.

The next step is ‘generalisation’. Once your dog has learned that you don’t appreciate jumping, call over some good friends, who will do the same with the dog. I had a friend who would walk in, say “hi” and then just stand checking messages on his Blackberry. Once Nishi stopped jumping, he would sit on the sofa and continue staring at his Blackberry. We would serve him a drink and when Nishi had finally settled down, he would pet her.

So then, why am I struggling? One of my biggest challenges has been in the generalisation area. My friends adore Nishi and find it very hard to ignore her when they walk in. While their love for her is touching and a blessing, it is quite a challenge for training. Owing to Nishi’s traumatic past and her exuberant love, most of my friends just want to bask in it. Just last week we were going through our friends list to identify who might be a good candidate to do this training. It’s important that this person is comfortable with dogs, because the person cannot afford to react to the dog jumping by saying: “No doggy. Don’t jump.” Maintaining complete silence is critical. If this technique does not work, another idea is to have your guests call you before they drop by. Take your dog out on a leash and start walking. Ask you friend to gradually join you on the walk and then casually walk into the house and settle down as if nothing has changed.

These training techniques might sound tedious.

But they are worth the effort. When guests get intimidated by your dog, it can alienate them and leave your social circle smaller.

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