Teach your dog social skills to keep greetings cordial

By: Peggy Swager Special to The Gazette
May 3, 2014
photo - A woman hurries along in a heavy snowfall while walking a dog in Newtown, N.J., early Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A woman hurries along in a heavy snowfall while walking a dog in Newtown, N.J., early Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) 

We all love puppies and often don't mind if they jump all over us in their enthusiasm to greet us.

However, when adolescence hits - between 4 months and a year old - the size of some dogs can be problematic: Now that gleeful greeting can knock us over. Even mature dogs become less tolerant of exuberance unless the dog is a puppy.

It's important to teach a dog the right way to greet both people and other dogs - and that they might not always get to greet either one.

At dog parks, most rules don't apply. Dogs are generally allowed to run around with free abandon. This is not true, though, at other public places, such as a park or the national forest. Those areas are human domains. Unfortunately, though, some people forget about manners when they are hiking with a dog.

Most of us, being dog lovers, expect that strangers will welcome the greeting of our companions. This may not be true. Some people out trying to enjoy a stroll may be afraid of dogs or even allergic to them. To let our pet greet them without their invitation violates their rights. Likewise, people walking their dog may not want another dog approaching. Their dog might be insecure about dogs they don't know. Even a more secure dog may become unsettled if approached too quickly. Inappropriate approaches have resulted in squabbles between two normally friendly dogs - and sometimes, between the owners.

When you are walking your dog, don't assume people or their dogs are OK to approach without asking permission. If your dog is off-leash when you are out walking, teach the dog to come over to you and stay by your side when another dog or person approaches. The dog can wait for a release command to "go visit." One way I teach this is to temporarily use a long, retractable leash. When the dog sees an oncomer, I reel the dog in and give the dog a treat. If the person wants to greet my dog, I then give the release word.

For people looking to round out their dog's social skills, the American Kennel Club has a great program called the Canine Good Citizen Award. Most dog owners who train for this find their dogs much more in control and enjoyable.


Swager is a behaviorist and dog trainer who has authored several books and a DVD on separation anxiety.

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