Dear Beast Mode,
I have a fairly large dog who is still in the rambunctious puppy stage, and he gets excited when visitors come over and wants to jump on them. I hold him by the collar and make him sit, but I am always distressed when people say, “Oh it’s fine, I have dogs, I don’t mind,” and encourage the dog to jump anyway.
It was upsetting when my teenage son’s friend was over for the weekend, and I walked in to see him teaching the dog to jump on him by hitting his chest and saying “up.” I explained to the boy that I don’t want the dog doing that, and he told me, “That’s how I let my dog love on me.”
How do I get other people to stop allowing the dog to jump? We live in a friendly neighborhood, and people tend to stop by unannounced—which leads to panic at the front door. I am shocked at the way people disregard my wishes, but don’t want to come across as rude to my guests. Any advice?
—Wearing Out My Welcomes
Dear Wearing Out My Welcomes,
Training is all about rewarding and reinforcing good behavior. While it’s tempting to shout admonishments or spritz them with water, you’ll be better off if you take a calm approach with your houseguests. They may not be dogs, but they still deserve your patience, and it’s important to stay outwardly serene. The dog is prone to consider any reaction a sign of encouragement, while the humans will likely do the same if they’re jerks.
Depending on the layout of your house, you can set up baby gates to section off the entryway. This pre-emptive measure will keep your guests penned-out while you politely instruct them on how to behave. It’ll also give the dog a moment to compose himself before assuming his hosting duties.
Your guests just want to give the pup a warm hello—or to paraphrase a great poet, “let the dog love on them”—so it’s up to you to transfer all that energy into something productive. Give visitors treats and ask them to make your dog sit or lie down. It’ll distract both species and train them to engage in a new type of greeting in the future. For a more formal approach, teach him how to shake. (This applies to both the dog and your teenager’s friend.)
You may not be able to train your visitors, but you can reduce your dog’s urge to jump through repeated practice with friends or family members who can be trusted to follow a script. Teach them to turn around if he hops up on them, and to shower him with praise when he stays put. And you needn’t dread any surprising drop-ins from friendly guests; consider these opportunities to reinforce your dog’s good behavior.
You can always resort to more drastic measures, like cursing out anyone who ignores your requests to keep the pup grounded. Feel free to really get personal. With an uptick in cruelty, people will stop coming over to your house completely. Sadly, this strategy will result in fewer friends for your dog to say “hi” to. He really loves those pop-ins, and he shouldn’t be punished for the bad behavior of others. Better stick to the original plan. Humans learn faster than you might think.