Monday, October 15, 2012

City Dog: Appropriate Interactions with People

For everything that Miss M can do well, she does have one kryptonite: people. She loves people so much that every time she sees them she gets so excited; it's almost like she's about to burst! The problem is, we live in the city and we are always seeing people. So this will happen a lot. She has come a far way from launching herself like a stallion and making hungry-gemlin noises, but for some of you who have met her in person know: she is a work in progress. Here are some things we learned to keep our excitable dog calm when meeting people:

Practice Sitting in Squares:
When I first adopted Miss M we would practice going to busy areas where we were just on the edge of the action. Our favorite haunt was the main square in the Lincoln Square neighborhood where we could just hang out and watch the people. While initially Miss M was so excited to meet people, she would eventually calm down and get used to being around the people without being excited. She would eventually associate it as being a calm area, and she was allowed to have people approach her without being too excited.

Reinforce in a Controlled Setting (And no Treats!):
Since it can be so hard to control strangers' interactions, I used to stage set-ups where I would have friends meet up with us, but they were only able to reward her with petting if she was behaving appropriately. I also started a rule that other people weren't allowed to give her treats. She was already so excited meeting people, when we allowed other people to treat her she thought ALL people were going to treat her. For her the petting was enough of a reward, and treats would only make her more excited.

Make Their World Big:
We take our pooches out to Farmer's Markets, street festivals, parades, stores, and parks. We expose them to a lot of experiences so they become accustomed to all the strange sights, sounds and people in the city. We can walk under the thundering El train, have gotten caught in a zombie walk, and even had drunk people try to put sombreros on the pooches. Exposing them to everything helps them stay calm in all kinds of situations.

We are lucky Mr. B is always so calm, but Miss M will always be a work-in-progress. What are some other things you've found to work with your own pups?

Also:
Sitting in squares with dogs
Our favorite example of Miss M behaving appropriately (watch the 1st video!)
Visual image of over-excited Miss M

12 comments:

bigalrlz said...

I BEG people NOT to talk to my pups in 'baby talk' because it makes them SO excited.

Sam said...

Monty is like that - he gets so excited he is hard to control. He's taken down kids and a few adults. What we tend to do is let Sam go greet the people/kids and work on getting Monty to lay down and praise him. We then ask the people to help us by calmly approaching Monty to pet him. If he gets excited we ask them to back off. Sam is a great buffer for us and helps us pull this off without offending anyone!

Sam

andfostermakesfive said...

Thank you so much for sharing! Our foster dog is the same way about meeting new people. She loves to jump up and give kisses! Unfortunately, people don't always appreciate this interaction ;) Our other issue is that she gets nervous in crowds, so unfortunately we aren't ready to take her to large public places yet... hopefully soon though. Thanks again!

Rebelwerewolf said...

Badger is the same way! This post kind of makes me lose hope that he'll grow out of it, but it does encourage me to take him out in public more. Now I just need to learn how to be firm with people, especially those "Oh, it's okay with me if he jumps" types.

Laura Filtness said...

You are SO wonderful to share this. My pit LOVES people and I can't ever seem to get her calmed down. She often whines and whimpers with excitement and it sounds like she is going to burst with joy. I hate taking her out because she can't ever seem to calm down and like many pits has taken down a few adults trying to kiss their face. These tips are SO helpful.

Laura Filtness said...

You are SO wonderful to share this. My pit LOVES people and I can't ever seem to get her calmed down. She often whines and whimpers with excitement and it sounds like she is going to burst with joy. I hate taking her out because she can't ever seem to calm down and like many pits has taken down a few adults trying to kiss their face. These tips are SO helpful.

My Two Pitties said...

My dog gets super excited during greetings too. I've gotten her to the point where she is great in crowds, sitting at cafes etc. but it's when someone goes directly to say hello to her, she bursts. I think I need to do more set-ups with people I know like you do!

EmilyS said...

Dr Sophia Yin has an adorable video showing her working with a baby cattle dog, right from the beginning.
http://drsophiayin.com/resources/video_full/australian-cattle-dog-puppys-first-day-home

Two French Bulldogs said...

Very cute. My Lily is like that too. She prefers to sit and wait for people to pet her than walk
Benny & Lily

ari_1965 said...

Dogs aren't allowed at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. It's a real bummer because it's usually way too hot to leave a dog in the car so you have to leave them at home or not go to the Farmer's Market. Some dumb Minnesota Department of Health rule. I think my dog is cleaner than many people.

Emily said...

I need to try your idea of staging meetings with friends! That's very smart. The biggest mistake we ever made was moving to the desert where our pups interactions have become so limited and our schedules no longer permit a half hour/hour drive into the city only to have them practice their behavior in public for an hour or so. :( I can't wait to be back in Phoenix.

Pauley, the Mr. or the Mrs. said...

We are constantly working on this too. Unfortunately we have company so rarely that Pauley is always super excited.

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