Tips for Training a Hyper Puppy to Greet Strangers
One of the most difficult tasks when training a puppy is getting him to properly greet strangers.
This is especially true for the ones that go into overdrive at the sight of a potential friend. Here are a few tricks to try if your rambunctious pup is being a little too friendly.
Stay Away From the Dog Park
For starters, you should probably avoid the dog park until your puppy is fully trained. While this might seem counterintuitive, as puppies need socialization, it’s actually one of the worst spots for a dog that has no impulse control. Other pups will be running loose, making it impossible to keep them from greeting your dog without permission, thereby rewarding him even if he is acting out.
Practice at Home
Much of a puppy’s behavior is caused by positive reinforcement by the owner. We tend to inadvertently create bad habits without realizing it. If you allow your dog to jump on you at home, you’re teaching him it’s okay to do it to strangers. In the mornings and when returning from work or the store, refuse to greet your puppy unless all four paws are on the floor. Once he’s got this down at home, then he’ll be ready to apply it outside your front door.
Draw His Attention Elsewhere
When out and about always carry treats or your pup’s favorite chew toy with you. Once he spots another dog or person be prepared to whip them out and draw his attention away. Use the “focus” command and if he responds by turning his attention to you, reward him with a treat or toy. Admittedly, this training technique works best with dogs that are highly treat or toy motivated.
One of the worst things you can do when your pup becomes overly excited is allow him to continue to pull. Take your dog away from the distraction, far enough that he’ll calm down and stop trying to choke himself. Staying in the same spot and shouting commands at him will accomplish nothing.
Practice Puppy Pushups
Before venturing out into the world your dog should know basic commands. For this he’ll need both “sit” and “down.” When you come across a stranger and your dog gets too excited, walk a few feet away and begin practicing puppy pushups. Have your dog repeatedly sit, then lie down. This will help him focus on the task at hand, rather than the would-be target of his energy.
Pull in a Friend
Hopefully you have a friend or family member with a well-trained dog of their own. Schedule times for them to come over and greet your dog. Practice both people greetings and puppy ones. Once they’ve become accustomed to greeting your friend or family member and their dog properly, you can move on to strangers.
Speak Up on Walks
Strangers can’t read your mind, so if you’re expecting them to behave a certain way when meeting your puppy, you need to speak up. Most of them will be happy to help (who doesn’t love puppies?) but might not know what to do. Explain that you’re in training and could use their help by having them not pet your little guy unless he sits first.
Choose a Special Collar
Some dogs are simply never going to properly greet a stranger without added incentive. If you’re not a fan of choke collars, that’s fine; there are other options. Head collars are great alternatives because they work by forcing your dog to turn away from his trigger if he pulls. They also have harnesses that do the same. These avoid the use of negative reinforcement or pain to get your dog to listen and often work wonders when going on walks.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.