Even the biggest dog lover sometimes meets a dog that’s “a bit much.” You know the kind … an overly friendly dog who is just so excited to see you that he will not stop jumping on you, licking you, or finding ways to invade your personal space. In a public space like a park, you could easily walk away, but what happens when you’re at a friend’s home?
The situation is even more complicated if you have allergies, are scared of dogs, or simply need more space and don’t want all that uninvited attention.
But how exactly do you tell a friend or family member that their dog could use some training without hurting their feelings? “Most people don’t appreciate unsolicited advice, not about their attitudes, goals, and especially not their kid’s or fur kids’ behavior,” says certified dog trainer Brooke Greenberg, owner of MindBodyPaws.
Below she shares some tips on navigating this complicated situation.
Have a Conversation Before You Visit
Telling a friend they need to train their dog can become confrontational and may come off as rude, depending on tone and how your friend perceives your statement, according to Christos Philippou, owner and trainer at Delaware K9 Academy.
Related: Why Do ‘Friendly’ Dogs Bite?
One way to get around the issue is to give your friend a call before you visit. “Have a conversation with your friend prior to arriving saying that you are uncomfortable with dogs and ask if it is possible to put the dog in a crate or another room while you are there,” Philippou says. “This is an excellent way to politely ask that they keep their dog away from you while keeping everybody comfortable and safe.”
You can also use this tactic if you are severely allergic to dogs or have a fear of all canines.
Speak Up Right Away
If you’re surprised by a dog a lacking in manners when you visit a friend, it’s better to find a way to deal with the situation right away.
If the offending dog is a boisterous greeter, redirecting the pooch by distracting them with something to eat (though want to ensure you aren’t rewarding them for the bad behavior), ask them to do a trick, like sit, or engaging them with a game such as tug is a great strategy, according to Greenberg. She says that, many times, dogs that don’t have good manners and are overstimulated by company, aren’t challenged enough mentally or are not getting enough exercise.
Greenberg adds, “I would take the opportunity to say kindly, ‘Wow, it sure seems like Fluffy has a lot of energy today. Would you mind if we played some games together?’”
It’s also possible the dog parent isn’t aware that the extreme energy their dog is showing isn’t “normal,” so this could be a great opportunity to explain the importance of enrichment games.
Find an Opening in the Conversation to Recommend a Dog Trainer
If you start the conversation with “your dog needs some training,” you can’t expect that to be received well. But if you’re already talking about a high-energy dog, you can always continue with something like “sometimes joining a training class helps dogs with so much energy.”
“Point your friend in the direction of a good social media account or a trainer who you know and trust and who can help frame the importance of good manners,” says certified dog trainer Jackie Carleen, who founded Mindful Doggo. “Manners aren’t so much about controlling a dog but about making those around you comfortable.”
If you’re around a dog who’s jumping up constantly, Carleen recommends ignoring the jumping when it’s happening, then praising with attention and treats when all four paws are on the ground. Always ask the pet parent if treats are ok (and to confirm the dog doesn’t have any allergies), but otherwise, this is a great way to control poor etiquette behavior right away.
Change the Meeting Place
Sometimes dogs are particularly boisterous at home but calm down in an unfamiliar place. Changing the meeting place might help the dog get used to your presence so that he can eventually be calmer when he sees you at home.
If your friend is up for a quick training exercise, suggest trying some desensitization. Basically, you can agree to meet at a park or another open area where your friend can hold the dog secured with a leash. You then stand at a distance where the dog can see you but doesn’t react. If the dog remains calm, you can then start moving towards the dog (walking back if the dog gets agitated) until you can be close to the dog and he remains calm.
With a dog that’s always bouncing around with energy, you can also simply suggest meeting for a walk or a hike instead of at home. This will allow the dog to use up that energy and he’ll also be focused on the trail ahead and all the smells and likely not interested in jumping on you at all.
Related: Why Does My Dog Lick Me So Much?