Frustrated Greeters

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What is a Frustrated Greeter? These are dogs who are OVERLY social and get all jazzed up when they see their friends but cannot get to them fast enough because the leash is attached. These dogs are usually found on their hind legs, barking and whining, even pawing at the air as if waving to a best friend passing on a school bus.

While it might be cute for all of one minute, it can quickly lead to frustration intolerance and even into reactivity since they're getting so overly emotional and can't seem to regulate.

This can be a tough one to modify without some strict management and setups, so be ready to pull up your sleeves and do some work to nip this one in the bud.

What is a Frustrated Greeter? These are dogs who are OVERLY social and get all jazzed up when they see their friends but cannot get to them fast enough because the leash is attached. These dogs are usually found on their hind legs, barking and whining, even pawing at the air as if waving to a best friend passing on a school bus.

While it might be cute for all of one minute, it can quickly lead to frustration intolerance and even into reactivity since they're getting so overly emotional and can't seem to regulate.

This can be a tough one to modify without some strict management and setups, so be ready to pull up your sleeves and do some work to nip this one in the bud.

What will you need?

  • a safe/friendly dog-friend that is reliable with your dog, and their human (on leash)
  • a safe area free of off-leash dogs with plenty of space (~100ft in length)
  • your regular gear (collar, harness, head halter, non retractable leash)
  • your treat pouch and high-value food (optional)

Step one:

Set up your human and dog Decoy Team (on leash) at the furthest point from your starting point. They can practice tricks or whatever they like as they wait, as long as they are not overly exciting and enticing to your dog. If the decoy dog is also a frustrated greeter, this will not work! This dog must be relaxed and friendly toward your dog.

You will start out at a distance where your dog notices the decoy team but isn’t barking and fussing. If your dog is barking and fussing, you’re too close. Back up 5 feet and continue backing up until you have a dog that notices without barking and fussing. This is your starting point.

This is a great place to play the Look at That game for a moment, in order to reduce excitement and increase focus on you, passively.

Step two:

Now that you’ve played a little Look at That, you can start working on polite walking towards the dog but take it easy – don’t rush and don’t tighten up the leash and force your dog closer to you. The goal is that you start moving towards the Decoy Team and for every loose-leash-and-no-barking-fussing step that you take, the closer you get!

Verbally praise your dog and be excited about it. Your dog needs to know that this is fantastic.

The instant your dog starts to pull, get jazzed up, barks, fusses, or walks on hind legs, you need to deliver a FAST Time-Out. Here’s what that looks like:

Say “oh, too bad…” and then turn and walk back to the starting point.

Start again! The consequence has to be swift in order to be effective.

You might have to repeat it 10 times before you get past a certain point. That’s okay.

Frequently Asked Question: Can I reward the polite walking with food?

Answer: You can reward with food every few steps if you’d like, but I try to do this exercise without food if I can… The reward is arriving at the dog and being allowed to visit and play.

Troubleshooting:

As you make your way towards the Decoy Team, you might struggle because you can’t get past the first few steps. That’s normal. Be sure that your timing is on point and that the order of events is pure:

Dog pulls/barks/fusses > you say “oh…too bad” > then you turn and walk back to the starting point. Don’t let any of these overlap; this means that you cannot say “oh too bad” before your dog fusses, and this means that you cannot turn and walk away at the same time as saying “too bad”. You need “oh…too bad” to be followed by a breath so that it predicts the ‘turn and walk back’.

This is punishment enough – you do not want to give a leash correction or verbal correction or sound too harsh. There’s no need to over-react to your dog’s over-reaction. You just want it to be clear that polite walking and quiet behaviour brings them closer to their friend and obnoxious behaviour sends them back to start (do not pass Go, do not collect $200).

Right, but do I drag my dog back to the start? Well, ideally not, but you might have some tension on the leash to move them in the opposite direction. I usually try kissy noises and just make it low-key but not scary.

Other challenges might be that this increases frustration. This might look like more barking and fussing even from a great distance that used to be comfortable, jumping on you, biting the leash, etc… If that happens, you might need a little one-on-one coaching. Connect with us in the Community and have a friend video record your session so we can help! 

Step three:

So you’ve been working at it and you’ve been able to get within 8 feet or so of your Decoy Team. This is AMAZING. It’s hard work!!

Once you’re within 8 feet, I want you to treat this like a Say Please exercise. Stop and ask for a behaviour you know your dog can do well. I try not to ask for a sit or down as that is far too difficult and can actually increase frustration. I prefer easy stuff like Eye Contact or Hand Targeting or even a trick like ‘shake a paw’ if your dog knows it!

The instant your dog performs it, you’re going to say “go say hi!!” with enthusiasm (not too crazy) and be ready to move with them towards the other dog.

Please be sure the other dog is okay with being greeted at this point!!

The reward is saying ‘hi’ to a friend.

Are we done? Nope. You might have to practice this entire sequence a half dozen times in a few different environments with different dogs, but it is SO worth it. Trust me. This is really hard for social dogs but you’re setting them up for a lifetime of success by doing this with them.

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