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Don't let Rover jump on you—it's a public display of dominance


Have you ever entered a neighbor’s home only to be rudely greeted by the neighbor's 100-pound labrador, its paws flailing at you? Your neighbor smilingly says, “Oh, sorry, she’s SOOO happy to see you!” Now that you’re covered in slobber and bits of mud and grass residue are stamped on your white shirt from the flailing paws, you think—can’t you control your dog?

Studies show that 9 in 10 pet owners consider their pet a family member ( A recent pet ownership study conducted by the American Pet Products Association reveals the following:

• 39% U.S. households own at least one dog
• 67% of dog owners own one dog; 24% own two dogs
( )

With many American households owning a dog, and with 90% being treated like family members, it’s not surprising that many dog owners expect their dogs to react like humans. This is evidenced by the various human-like products purchased by dog owners: sweaters, boots, toothbrushes, orthopedic beds, dog-sized sofas and even nail polish.

Unfortunately, being greeted by a jumping dog is not a welcoming gesture in the dog-world—it’s a public display of dominance. Dog behavior expert, Cesar Millan, affirms this in Cesar’s Way: The Natural Everyday Guide to Understanding & Correcting Common Dog Problems, stating:

There are certain behaviors . . . that I recommend you always block, because by allowing them, you could be encouraging dominance. You should not allow the dog to jump on you—or anyone else, for that matter—when you walk in the door” (224).

If your dog feels a leadership vacancy in the house, he will want to fill it. All dogs instinctively want to be led by their human owners—they know it’s not their job—it needs to be yours. Here are some tips to get back on track:

Expect your dog to be a dog, not a human. You own a dog because you appreciate their differences from humans, so don’t expect human reactions to situations. Dogs are animals.

Give them space: Teach your dog to sit a reasonable distance away from the door before opening the door to guests, ideally ten feet or more. For best results, have another family member open the door while you maintain the dog in a sustained “stay” position. If you have a resistant dog, I suggest putting the dog in a “down” position.

If you must do this on your own, keep a short leash by the door so that you can tether the dog to your side and keep the dog in a “stay” or “down.” Ask your human visitor to give the dog a wide berth until the dog demonstrates sustained submission.

Discourage contact. Discourage your guests from making eye contact with the dog or greeting her in any way until you permit it. If the dog demonstrates submission, release the dog to appropriately greet your visitor. If the dog jumps, say “off” and make the dog submit using the “down” command and restrict access to the visitor until the dog can be calm. It’s possible the dog might have to be tethered to a door while on the leash and not be allowed the privilege of greeting your guest that day.

Offer treats. Keep small treats near the door to reward submissive behavior. Continue to do this with each visitor until your dog can demonstrate control. After that, make it an occasional thing so the treats aren’t expected.

Don’t give an inch. Your dog must never have a victory over you. That’s not to say you have to be a mean, unemotional dog owner. By always being a vigilant, controlling dog owner, your dog will respect you and act accordingly.

Don’t yell at your dog. Remain calm. Raised voices only increase tension. If you want your dog to display a calm demeanor, then you need to emulate that too.

Do respect your dog as a member of your family by respecting his animal instincts. With consistent effort on your part, you will be rewarded with a well-behaved dog—and maybe more neighbors wanting to visit.

Refer to Cesar Millan’s website for more advice on this topic:


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