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How on earth can I train my dog not to do this?

(17 Posts)
freddiefrog Wed 25-Sep-13 08:23:42

I have a 5 year old springer spaniel. Whenever we have visitors he grins at them - he gets down really low, wags his tail so much I'm worried his backside will fall off and sort of lifts one side of his lip while madly winking. Doesn't jump up or run around or anything OTT.

DH and I are foster carers and during our assessment our social worker was quite unnerved by our madly winking, grinning dog so she had him assessed by a behaviourist who confirmed it was absolutely fine, nothing to worry about and just the way some dogs show they're no threat to others. It's an appeasement smile apparently -

Virtually everyone who comes to the house thinks it's great, some are a little nervous but once we explain why he's leering at them, they're fine. However, we've recently had the police round (my daughter had her bike stolen) and one of the police officers were quite off about it and told us we should be careful in case someone mistakes it for aggression so I'm a little worried now

So, how can I stop him doing it? Is it possible to train it out of him? It seems like a natural reaction that he's not even aware he's doing so I have no idea where to start

Any ideas would be great

Thanks thanks

ButThereAgain Wed 25-Sep-13 08:34:40

In a way it is a lovely problem to have! He sounds a darling.

What happens when the people who love his greeting behaviour come to the house? Do they make a big fuss of him? That could be entrenching the behaviour, either because the fuss is a reward for him, or because it makes the whole business of people coming into the house so "emotionally charged" that he is a little bit anxious and so more likely to do the whole appeasing routine.

Perhpas you could ask everyone to ignore him when they come into the house, and only pay attention to him when he has gone into a calmer mode.

Another solution might just be to get him off the scene when you have "official" kind of visitors who just want to get on with their work without intrusion from a dog. Anyone who feels a bit dog-wary might just be unhappy with any big attention-grabbing performance of a dog, and they shouldn't have to run that gauntlet.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 25-Sep-13 08:36:56

Why would you want to train the dog out of his natural 'no threat' behaviour? It sounds adorable to me! I don't quite see why it's problem if someone does (temporarily, before you have a chance to explain) mistake it for aggression.

Perhaps rather than trying to explicitly stop this behaviour you could train him to do something else so that you can divert him from doing it. My dog greets over-enthusiastically in the more normal (but about as 'threateningly') way - barking his head off - simply telling him repeatedly to sit helps stop him.

ButThereAgain Wed 25-Sep-13 08:49:30

(Obviously when the social worker's assessment was happening you couldn't keep him off the scene all the time because he is part of the family life that's being assessed. I was thinking more about the police officer.)

I guess as a foster carer you get used to having to do everything to a very high standard -- not only doing it right but doing it in a way that can be seen to be right by all the relevant professionals. So you set a high standard for your dog too.

I agree with Errol that giving your dog a special job to do when he goes into greeting mode (a sit or a handshake or whatever), and rewarding that, might help to displace the unwanted behaviour.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 25-Sep-13 08:55:45

And ButThere's advice on not rewarding the grinning is also definitely correct. Unless you turn it into a trick - showing that you can switch the dog between grin/ shake/sit/ grin again would I think be reassuring.

freddiefrog Wed 25-Sep-13 09:04:52


To be honest, I don't particularly want to stop him doing it. He doesn't jump up or charge around madly, just stands in the living room leering away, gets a fuss then goes to his bed and that's the last we hear or see of him. If he gets ignored then he just kind of shrugs and goes to his bed, he doesn't pester or anything

If we have lots of people round for meetings he goes to visit his girlfriend up the road until everyone has gone so he's not here causing a nuisance of himself

Like I say, most people are fine with it, my FC's social worker even brings dog biscuits round for him sometimes, it's just the policeman has worried me a bit, that with the amount of people we have trooping in and out sometimes, if someone mistakes it for aggression, we could get into trouble

freddiefrog Wed 25-Sep-13 09:07:02

Sorry, x-posted

Paw shaking is an idea, it's more of a fun trick that way.


ButThereAgain Wed 25-Sep-13 09:07:06

How about this: All visitors instructed to completely ignore daftly friendly grinning winking dog, not even look at him. And you, not they, quietly approach and say "sit" or whatever, and quietly give treat for obedience. Everything very low-key.

But if you don't trust him to be instantly distracted from his behaviour by your "Sit" instruction, then perhaps it would be better for you to ignore him too, until he calms down, and then immediately give him the "sit" command and a reward. He'll come to lean that calming down is the preliminary for somehting nice.

ButThereAgain Wed 25-Sep-13 09:07:32

whoops, x-post

ErrolTheDragon Wed 25-Sep-13 09:13:27

>if someone mistakes it for aggression, we could get into trouble

I honestly can't see why. The policeman sounds like a bit of an idiot re dogs TBH. You've had the dog assessed by a behaviourist, you know it isn't aggression.

If he normally goes to his bed anyway, maybe that could even be the 'diversion' - i.e don't fuss, when he shrugs and goes say 'go to your bed' - then start saying it before the shrug.

freddiefrog Wed 25-Sep-13 10:28:08

I'm not sure why I'd get into trouble to be honest. He just scared me a bit with talk of rules changing regarding aggressive dogs in their own homes and I was worried that if someone reported us it could get serious

We know he's not aggressive and I can dig the behaviourist's report out if necessary so I guess I'm worrying over nothing really


ButThereAgain Wed 25-Sep-13 10:40:43

I do love this dog, with his shrugs and his winks and his grins.grin What a dearie.

I need a pic of the grinning dog grin

ErrolTheDragon Wed 25-Sep-13 12:26:47

Yes... the picture in the link is good but I'd really like to see yours! Actually he probably needs a video clip to get the full effect.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 25-Sep-13 12:31:01

(so I've been googling 'youtube grinning dog' - there's one which seems to have been trained to grin when its owner grins!)

pigsDOfly Wed 25-Sep-13 12:59:54

If sometimes you sent him to see his girlfriend down the road when you have people in the house freddiefrog, perhaps he thinks that's what's going to happen every time people visit. Maybe he's just leering and winking in a sort of 'I'll be going off to see my favourite girl in a bit' kind of waysmile

freddiefrog Wed 25-Sep-13 13:32:50

grin and we all thought he was pleased to see us when he's really just thinking about visiting his lady friend!

Next time he does it I'll get a photo and post it to my profile, I can't find any that show it very clearly. He really looks like a leering drunkard about to wolf whistle.

He has a really expressive face, always makes me laugh

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