We love the fact that dogs love us with so much enthusiasm. It’s part of their charm! But most of us don’t love when our dogs are so excited to see us that they hurt us.
If your dog jumps up, claws at you, or even bites and mouths at you when you come home from work, you’re not alone. I like to term these dogs Over-Excited Greeters, and I’ve actually written a whole e-book about helping these dogs learn to be more polite.
Why Does My Dog Claw at Me More Than My Family?
It’s not unusual for this problem to be worse with one person than another. This isn’t because your dog is being dominant (dominance relates to an animal’s access to resources, not really a personality trait). It’s probably either because:
- Your pup is especially attached to one person
- That person is most excited to see the dog (creating a feedback loop)
- One person is more effective at setting boundaries with the dog
It’s ok to be excited to see your dog when you come home, and it’s ok to not be a great disciplinarian with your dog. But our goal is to find a happy way to greet your dog that also helps your dog be more polite when greeting you!
Is Your Dog Super, Duper Bored?
Often when we see young dogs that are way over-the-top with greeting their owners, it’s because the dogs are incredibly bored during the rest of their day.
That’s partially why this problem is so common in teenage dogs – they’ve just got so much energy!
If your dog is bored and under-exercised, this problem will be MUCH harder to fix.
A midday walker or jogger can help a lot, if you can afford it. I like this option better than daycare because daycare environments often promote the exact over-the-top rude behavior that we want to reduce.
Set Your Dog Up for Success
Dogs that are so excited about their owners coming home often need a bit of help to really calm down around their owners.
I like setting up a baby gate (in an entryway) or exercise pen (in a C shape if you don’t have an entry) so that your dog can’t actually jump on you right when you open the door.
Giving your dog this extra space allows you to wait for him to calm down a bit before entering your home fully. Simply stand calmly on your side of the barrier, waiting for your dog to calm down.
Of course, if your dog doesn’t know that calm behavior is the goal, this will be a very frustrating exercise for both of you!
Set yourself up for success by practicing the skill of being calm when your dog isn’t excited before asking your dog to do it when he is SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU!!!
- Leave a tiny jar of treats next to your key holder.
- When you enter your apartment, wait for your dog to put all 4 paws on the ground, or sit down, or back away from the gate.
- Immediately throw him three treats on the ground away from you and the gate. Three treats helps slow him down a bit, and throwing on the ground keeps his focus downwards, not up at you.
- Repeat until your dog is a bit less wiggly and jumpy, then enter and repeat the process without the gate.
- Once your dog is calmed down a bit more, you can kneel down and greet him with love! Avoid greeting him standing up, as this continues to encourage jumping up.
Of course, a key to this process is to also teach your dog to sit, chase treats, and wait politely outside of the context of you coming home from work.
Practice this same routine several times after dinner or before you leave from work before you expect your dog to perform well when he’s so excited to see you.
Ok, But What Happens When My Dog Jumps and Claws at Me?
Your dog is jumping up to try to greet you and get attention, right? So the best response you can do if you want to stop that behavior is to remove yourself from the situation.
This might mean leaving your house again for 20 seconds, or ducking into the bathroom or mudroom.
Scolding, kneeing, or pushing at your dog gives him what he wants – attention. Turning your back might work for some dogs, but fully leaving the room and closing the door behind you works better.
Of course, this time-out can’t be your only training method. That’s incredibly frustrating for both you and your dog. Combining this with exercise, a barrier, and the treat training will help you succeed!
If you need more help, check out our Polite Greetings 101 E-Book (it’s under $10)!
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, as a private dog trainer, and with working detection K9s. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.