As you rehabilitate your dog or teach them simple manners, you will come to find that the dog might be ready to learn, but the other people in your life will be far more difficult to train than your dog.
Now, if you factor in the rest of the people in the world you will meet and how people will react when your dog jumps on them, think about all the different messages your dog will receive from that one behavior.
The smallest member of my own pack (Georgia Peaches) is one of the most enthusiastic greeters on the planet. Getting her not to jump on me and my wife took a considerable amount of work and getting her not to jump on other people has been even more difficult because frankly, most of the other people in our life want her to jump on them. At less that 20lbs, she’s small, cute, and most people like the warm feeling that they get when dogs are out of their minds excited to see them. What’s worse, is when you have multiple dogs, people letting the rules slip with one dog, will make the other dogs more inclined to misbehave (and people wouldn’t like it as much if my 55lb pitbulls were to jump on them).
Removing this behavior is a challenge for any household, but here are a few things to consider when working with other people:
- Don’t leave things to chance – There are a few people who I know will not follow my rules – my Dad, for example, has difficulty accepting my authority- so I know I have to be more prepared when they come over. I know he will encourage Georgia Peaches to jump, so I may put her on a leash to keep her from making mistakes she is being encouraged to make. This way we avoid playing “catch me if you can” and avoids awkward conversations with my dad or whoever else is inciting the behavior I am trying to correct.
- Have a plan and explain it – Many people in your life will want to be helpful, they just need to know how they can help you be successful. If you are working with your dog on not jumping, let them know to practice “no touch, no talk, no eye contact,” or to not acknowledge your dog until the time is right. Let them know not to act extra excited when they are coming into your house. Sometimes if you tell the people in your life that you are working towards a specific goal like having your dog pass the Canine Good Citizen test or a test to become a therapy dog, they will be more likely to buy-in to your training process.
- Get everyone in your house on the same page – If you and your immediate family members have disagreements about the rules for your dogs in the house, figure out all your compromises before you bring dogs into the house. People often have disagreements on if the dogs should be allowed in bed or on the couch – if one person breaks the rules, it’s not good for the people or the dog. If one person doesn’t want the dog in their intimate space all the time, that should be respected.
- Invite people into the process – Instead of waiting until chaos happens to try to train your dog, hop on Facebook and let people know you are training your dog and would love them to come over and help. Offer them pizza or have a dinner party with training your dog as the goal and not just as an afterthought. This will attract people who are cooperative and want to help and it may help socialize you and your dogs with more people. Remember, the more helpful people who follow your rules there are in your dog’s life, the less difficult rule breakers will be for your dog.
- Be candid when you have to be – If people are just unwilling to be helpful and are not responsive to your nicer suggestions, don’t be afraid to have a serious talk with them where you explain exactly how their behavior is affecting your dog. If they encourage your dog to jump by talking to your dog excitedly or petting them when they are jumping, they are forcing you to correct your dog – which is uncool and makes you into the “bad guy.” This puts a strain on your relationship with your dog and your relationship with them as a human. If they can’t get on the same page, then put the dog away when they come over.
Always be aware of how your behavior affects the dogs around you. If a dog is heeling nicely on a leash on the street and you look at it / start talking to it / get it excited, then you might be leading that dog into a correction. My general rule of thumb is to treat every dog on the street as a service dog or a service dog in training. If you find yourself in a social setting with a dog, take cues from the dog’s handler on how they want you to interact with the dog and don’t decide that you know better and are going to do what you want.
Ultimately, training your dog and the people in your dog's life should be FUN. So, don't let resentment fester, always speak up, and be an advocate for your dog! He'll thank you for it!