Sit to Greet (No Jumping!)

Exercise 8.1 - Four on the Floor

If not taught any other way, dogs will greet people instinctively usually by pulling towards the person like a steam train, jumping up on them to greet face-to-face and putting their nose where it doesn‘t belong!


As jumping up is such a natural and self-rewarding behaviour (i.e. it just feels good) we need to use both management techniques to control situations so your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to jump up while we work on targeted training exercises to help teach our pups what we would rather they do instead.


Common situations where jumping up is likely:

  • When you come home 
  • When you’re sitting down
  • When visitors enter the house
  • When you meet people out walking


The elements of training to teach calm greetings:

  • Reduce the emotional component when you arrive home.  Avoid fast movements and loud voices.  Ignore your dog until he is calm.
  • Teach and follow the ‘Four on the Floor’ rule.  Don’t touch your dog – and that includes pushing him off. Teach him he will only get attention from you and anyone else when all four feet are on the floor (Exercise 8.1  - Four on the Floor)
  • If he jumps on you when you are sitting, simply stand up and ignore him.  Do not speak, push him away or interact in anyway.
  • Train a mutually exclusive behaviour to jumping up at people you meet, Exercise 8.2 - Sit & Keep Sitting While People Approach.  
  • Teach him an alternative way to greet another person, Exercise 8.3 - Say Hi!


Management strategies while you train your dog:

  • Put your dog on a lead or put your dog in his crate or another room when guests arrive
  • Ask your guests to help you train by asking your dog to sit before rewarding him with attention – Four on the Floor.
  • If you are sitting and your dog jumps up on you, stand up immediately. Don't talk to your dog or push him away. 
  • When you encounter someone while out walking your dog, you have to manage the situation and train your dog at the same time.
  • Stop the person from approaching by telling them you don't want your dog to jump.
  • Ask your dog to "Sit."
  • Tell the person they can only come forward and be close to your dog if he remains seated.
  • Some people will tell you they don't mind if your dog jumps on them, especially if your dog is small and fluffy or a puppy but you should mind. Remember you need to be consistent, if you don't want your dog to jump on people, stick to your training and don't make exceptions.


Remember: what dogs learn first they usually learn best.  Once allowed to become established jumping up at people can be a tough one to retrain.


Puppies and small dogs that are picked up and kissed and cuddled will also be pre-disposed to jumping. When they are picked up and held near someone’s face it’s usually a very positive and hugely rewarding place for them.  They learn super quickly that being high off the ground and being close to the human's face is a great thing. 


Inevitably, when the dog stops being picked up off the ground because the dog is now too old or too big, they will still be very motivated and want to try to reach up high and get to your face.


Puppies do need to learn to be comfortable being picked up and placed on a surface like an exam or grooming table and they also need to be gently accustomed to the restraint of being picked up and held but scientists agree the best advice if you have a puppy is to avoid picking up for kisses and cuddles near your face (tough one I know!)


It’s really important to be consistent. Everyone in your family must follow the training program all the time.  You can't let your dog jump on people in some circumstances, but not others.


Exercise 8.1 Four on the Floor 

  1. When you come in the door keep greetings very quiet and low-key to take the emotion out of the situation.
  2. If your dog jumps on you, turn away and even go out the door.
  3. Actively train Exercise 8.1 - Four on the Floor shown in the video below where you come in prepared to train immediately with your clicker and rewards.
  4. You capture and reward any decision that keeps all Four on the Floor. Even if he's walking away you still reward that because you’re desensitising him to triggers that can cause him to jump.  
  5. The first 10 seconds of your arrival will be the hardest for him but it’s also the most informative and where the dog is learning the most so it’s important that you are very clear with your information.  If he jumps he gets no attention whatsoever, if he stays on the floor he gets a reward and you work to set up criteria that he can do successfully 9 times out of 10 to keep his success rate high.


Exercise 8.2 - Sit & Keep Sitting While People Approach

  1. Ask a family member or friend to assist with training. Your assistant must be someone your dog likes and wants to greet. 
  2. Cue your dog to Sit
  3. Have the person approach you, one step at a time. In the early stages, you will mark and treat your dog for every step the person takes toward him, as long as he maintains the Sit. Have your greeter come close enough to shake your hand (social distancing rules permitting of course!).
  4. If your dog starts to get up at any time during your helper’s approach, have your helper stop, look away from your dog, and take a few steps backward. Then tell your dog “All done.” The release makes it clear the person is not coming forward and the treats stop if your dog gets up.  Wait at least five seconds and then try again with your helper moving slower, or you offering a higher value reward.
  5. Keep practicing until he is able to remain sitting four out of five times until the person can get to within handshaking distance of you.
  6. Be sure to select people who will cooperate with your instructions because you do not want someone undoing all your hard work!  You may need to have particularly high-value treats for this exercise if your dog is really excited by people. 
  7. Instruct your greeter to refrain from reaching out and touching your dog for this exercise.


Keep in Mind


“Calm” is the word to keep in mind when teaching exercise 8.2.  It's important that you don't move forward until you have a relaxed and calm dog. This will ensure that you are training your dog to be comfortable with new people, as well as preventing him from jumping on people in excitement.