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How to Manage Your Dog's Over-The-Top Greetings

Your dog is excited to see you because you are his pack member.

Is this scenario familiar to you?

You come home from a long day at work and are accosted at the door by a flying ball of fur; all muscle, tongue, and drool. Your dog, absolutely frantic with delight at seeing that you're home, is doing his best to jump up and lick your face right off.

You love your dog, but this isn't exactly a comfortable situation for you. You wish there were a way to come home to a calmer, but just as loving, reunion with your canine companion.

Why Does Your Dog Greet You so Excitedly?

Why is it that some dogs react so exuberantly to the return of their human after an absence?

One reason is that dogs don't always have very much to do while you're gone. Your dog's social life mainly consists of you, and when you're gone, he can feel kind of bored. When you return, it means that he's going to have something to do: interact with you, get some petting, receive dinner, and maybe go for a walk or play fetch. That's very exciting for a dog that's been doing nothing all day.

Another reason dogs might react over-excitedly when you return home after an absence is that they are pack animals. Dogs in the wild generally stay near other dogs and don't take off on their own too much. When you leave for work or errands, it's usually an unwanted separation for your dog. So your return makes him feel relieved and happy: the pack is reunited.

Why Does My Dog Insist on Leaping up to Lick My Face When I Get Home?

Well, OK, maybe it makes sense, then, for my dog to be so excited when I return home after an absence, but why does he have to leap up and try to lick my face? I end up scratched, knocked over, and wet.

Scientists have noticed that wolves and feral dogs lick a returning canine's face, as well, so this behavior isn't limited to a dog's interaction with a human. It's part of dog communication and may be as simple as a way to discover whether the pack member that's been gone has found any nice food to share with the one that stayed behind.

How Can I Manage My Dog's Exuberant Greetings?

There is very little that is as heart-warming as seeing how happy your dog is to see you when you've been gone. Most people love it, and they don't necessarily want to dampen their little friend's enthusiasm.

However, it might be nicer for you if your dog doesn't jump on you and knock you over at the end of a long day. Being able to get in the door, set your things down, and greet your dog in a slightly more reserved way might be even more rewarding for both of you. So how can you go about training your dog to react a little less excitedly while not removing any of his happiness at reuniting with you?

The best thing to do in this situation is to create an alternative activity for your dog to do when he sees you that doesn't involve jumping on you, allows you to greet him calmly, but helps him release some of his excitement. Here are some examples:

  • Teach your dog to pick up a certain toy when you arrive. This works particularly well with retrievers. He can either continue to hold the toy while you kneel down to greet and pet him or the two of you can play a few rounds of fetch with the toy before the greeting to get some of his excitement out. You can teach your dog to do this by keeping the toy with you in the beginning. Have it in your hand when you come through the door and immediately hand it to your dog. Get him interested in it with some tugging or even give it a little toss. When he grabs it, give him lots of praise and attention. Over time, if you are consistent, your dog will eventually learn that the toy should receive his exuberance when you arrive home, and you will pet him when he follows that rule.
  • Train him to sit and let you come to him. Train your dog that you won't greet him until he sits calmly and lets you come down to him. If you don't mind having your dog on your furniture, you can even train him to jump on the couch when you arrive, so he can give you kisses without knocking you over. To train your dog to sit when you arrive home, you may need another person to practice with you. Put your dog on a leash and have your partner ask the dog to sit. Once he does, you can start to approach him. If he jumps on you, stop and turn the other way while your partner asks him to sit again. Over time, your dog will learn that he only gets to greet you if he is sitting.

It's important that, if you have a puppy, you don't allow behavior that you won't like later. It can be cute and sweet to have a small puppy jumping on you at the door but not so cute when the dog grows to adulthood. It will be easier for both of you if you establish how you want him to act when you return home as early as possible in your relationship.

For more in-depth instructions on teaching your dog not to jump on you or other people, take a look at this article: "How to Stop Your Dog from Jumping on People."

Provide Your Dog Some Entertainment While You're Away

Giving your dog some things to do while you're gone can help keep him from getting too bored.

If your dog is able to stay occupied and happy throughout the day, his "welcome home" to you might be a little calmer.

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