There are many people who inadvertently will do things which can possibly derail your training. I like to call these people “It’s Okay” people.
The friend who says “It’s okay, I love dogs” when you tell them not to let your puppy jump on them.
The child who runs towards your dog yelling “Puppy!” when your out on a walk whose parent says, “It’s okay, we love dogs” when you try to tell them to slow down.
These people most likely haven’t thought about how their actions will affect the big picture of your training plan. Although people wouldn’t think twice about following a parents instruction about their child, people don’t look at it the same way when it comes to pets. No one would warrant running up to a child saying that she’s so cute and touching their hair, but people don’t think that the same boundaries apply to dogs that they run into on the street.
We need to make people reevaluate their actions in situations like these. It’s easiest with friends and family members, so lets look at those first.
If your friends become “It’s Okay” people in your life be constructive. Help them learn why what their doing isn’t helping. Help them see the bigger picture. More than anything, tell them what they can do to help, rather than what they shouldn’t do.
Instead of simply saying not to let the dog jump tell them how to deal with her jumping. Let them know that although it’s cute as a puppy, the full-grown dog will be much more difficult. That cute little annoyance as a puppy could become a 70 lb adult quickly. And even if the dog will stay a lap sized ball of fur, that jumping up on people is an all or nothing event meaning the dog will then think it’s alright to jump on the toddlers and on elderly friends and family members. Dogs are non-discriminatory and if they can jump on one person they believe that all are free game.
In order to do this, you first need to train your dog to sit when you come in. By using a hand signal in combination with the voice command you then have something to tell your friends and family members what to do when they come in. Instead of telling them not to let your dog jump on them, tell them what to do, and preferable tell them before they actually enter. Let them know that when they come in the door the dog may jump or they may sit until you look at them and then jump. Warn the family member or friend, and then let them know to stand there and not look at the dog, or to look at the ceiling while they come further in. When the dog jumps let them know that is when they will need to do the voice and hand signal. Instruct them to only say the voice command once, but to continue the hand signal until they comply. Once you get your friends in the mix and helping, they will more than likely be so into it, that they don’t see it as anything more than fun. They will probably be happy to have you ask to help.
If it’s a stranger who is this “It’s Okay” person, like someone you run into at a store or on a walk, it’s both more difficult and easier. The part that’s easier is that you wont need to build as much background. Something as simple as saying you’re in training is enough most of the time. It’s more difficult though for the exact same reason. You don’t want to seem like you’re being negative or impolite or rude, but this is your puppy and your family. You need to be the one setting rules.
In these situations if telling them “Don’t let her/him jump on you” isn’t enough for them to listen, politely excuse yourself from them. When you’re out, you are most likely on your way somewhere, so simply let them know that you need to get on your way.
In situations where there is someone breaking your dogs personal bubble and aren’t recognizing any stress or fear signals it’s even harder. These situations are mainly in encounters with people in stores or on walks, but sometimes friends don’t understand the boundaries either.
In both instances you most of all have to let them know that the way they have been approaching is wrong. You don’t want to block your dog off from encounters because it is important for them to meet and encounter as many different kinds of people (and other dogs) as possible. If they don’t get that chance then it is more likely that they will encounter new things in the future negatively.
With this you need to let your friends, family, or the stranger in your way, know that the way they approach your dog is wrong and how to do it correctly. Let them know that when they reach out and lean over him or her that they are scaring them. It’s hard to basically re-wire people into understanding they are doing the wrong thing, but it is possible. Most people were never told or taught how to approach a dog and so they don’t see what they do as being wrong.
Let them know that if they approach sideways and don’t try to stare at them. Also let them know that by reaching over the dogs head, they’re also probably scaring them, but that if they simply let the dog smell and encounter you, then the dog might reach out to them. If you do encounter a time where a person or child runs up to you and your dog and you are unable to stop or slow them down it is smart to have a game plan.
First of all, in situations like that it’s important to be sure that you know and trust your dog. Be able to read her and understand the signals and signs she is giving you. Make sure that your leash is stable and that your dog wont be able to run away and hide, or get loose from you. Then you have to keep an eye on your dog and be sure that they don’t get too stressed or fearful.
With your friends in these situations you can coach them, let them know how they made mistakes and how to change them. Sometimes with strangers you can do the same thing, but those situations need to be handled much more gingerly. Again, this is a time where it is better to try to explain what they can do in the future, rather than telling them what they shouldn’t have done.
You are sure to encounter “It’s Okay” people in your training plan and in your life with your dog. But you need to recognize them and then make sure you don’t allow them to derail the progress you make and have made with your dog.