Image by Ryan Christodoulou

Sit Politely for Petting

Teach your dog what you want them to do instead of waiting for them to make the wrong choice and correcting them. Teach them to Sit Politely for Petting before they jump on someone and knock them down or get their clothes dirty.

It's easier to teach a 'Do' than a 'Don't'

It's much easier and clearer to teach your dog how you want them to say hello to you and other people than it is to teach them NOT to do it by jumping.

To teach a dog NOT to do something, you usually have to wait until they've already done it and correct them.
By then, it's already been done. They've already put their muddy paws on your nice dress. They've already had the thrill of jumping which makes them want to do it again next time.

It's hard to get a dog to make the connection between praise & reward and something they are NOT doing.

Most of the time, dogs are not jumping. If we say "what a good dog!" when they aren't jumping, how would they know that NOT jumping is what you're happy about?

There are a lot of other unacceptable things your dog could do besides jumping.
What if they greet you by peeing on your leg instead, or by chewing your shoelaces, or humping you?

Step-By-Step

LEVEL 1

Sit while someone speaks to you and ignores your dog

  1. Ask your dog to "Sit" next to you facing the same direction as if you were going to walk together.
    HINT: If your dog keeps moving in front of you to Sit, practice next to a wall so they can't swing around.

  2. Have a person walk up to you and say hello to you, ignoring your dog (no eye contact).

  3. If your dog jumps, the person walks away.

  4. If your dog stays in the Sit OR stands up but does not jump, feed your dog 3 treats in a row (not all the same time). 

  5. When the treats are gone, the person should walk away.

  6. Recruit as many people as possible to practice with you.

  7. Practice several times in a row to make it stick faster.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog remains in a Sit OR stands up but does not jump when someone walks up to speak to you 5 times in a row.

LEVEL 2

Sit while someone pets for 3 seconds

  1. Ask your dog to "Sit" next to you facing the same direction as if you were going to walk together.
    HINT: If your dog keeps moving in front of you to Sit, practice next to a wall so they can't swing around.

  2. Have a person walk up to you and, after asking your permission, pet your dog for 3 seconds while you feed them 3 treats in a row.

  3. If your dog jumps, the person walks away.

  4. If your dog stays in the Sit OR stands up but does not jump, the person pets them for 3 seconds and then walks away.

  5. Praise and give your dog another treat when the person walks away if they did not jump.

  6. Recruit as many people as possible to practice with you.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog remains in a Sit OR stands up but does not jump when someone walks up and pets them for 3 seconds 5 times in a row.

LEVEL 3

Add Duration

  1. Repeat level 2 with the person petting for 5 seconds, then 10, 15, 20, 30.

  2. Feed a treat every 2-3 seconds while the person pets your dog.

  3. Recruit as many people as possible to practice with you.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog remains in a Sit OR stands up but does not jump when someone walks up and pets them for 30 seconds 5 times in a row.

LEVEL 4

Fade Treats

  1. Repeat level 3 and increase the time between treats by a few seconds each repetition until they only get one at the end, then none at all (the petting is the reward).

  2. Recruit as many people as possible to practice with you.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog remains in a Sit OR stands up but does not jump when someone walks up and pets them for 30 seconds 5 times in a row with NO treats.

Always check in with your dog before letting someone pet them.
Even the most friendly dog can have a bad day or get a bad vibe from someone and not want to be petted. Forcing them can set them up to make a costly mistake. Forced petting does not help shy dogs like strangers! 

Getting behind you, crouching down, flattened ears, wide eyes, and growling are all signs that your dog does not want to be petted by this person. Tell them your dog is in training, having a bad day, sick, whatever you choose but the answer is no. Your dog is not the world's petting zoo, and it is OK to say NO, you may not pet my dog.

To help shy dogs with greetings, I don't ask them to stay in a Sit while someone pets them. Instead, I tell them to "go say hi" and encourage them to approach the person. Dogs feel more confident about things they do on their own. It is also an easy way to see if they consent (they approach the person) or not (they don't approach the person). 

The importance of Consent (Warning: Sensitive Content)