To start, the prerequisite for GO SAY HI is always DON’T GO SAY HI so I always teach this first. Do this by having your dog next to you on leash (standing or sitting) and start feeding your dog treats one after the other right to his mouth. After doling out 5-8 treats in a row, have another person approach but stop before they are too close (too close would be if your dog stops focusing on you and your treats and walks towards them). Then have the person stop at a distance and pause your treat delivery (usually after 5-8 treats). We want your dog to notice and look at the person approaching and then turn back to you because you have been playing the role of “human treat dispenser!” Then, the approaching person can up their approach to become more interesting – maybe getting closer, talking to your dog or leaning down towards your dog. You still want your pup to be more interested in you than the approaching person. Once your dog notices the person approaching and looks back to you, you may give the cue GO SAY HI if you like. Instead of a treat, your dog’s reinforcer for looking at you (checking in) is that they get to go meet the approaching human (or dog).
Once you have taught DON’T go say hi, you can proceed to GO SAY HI. In general, I am not a fan of dogs greeting on leash for several reasons but I do like to teach dogs a “GO SAY HI” cue for the following circumstances:
- Times when it may be OK for your dog to meet humans or other dogs on leash (dogs they know or we want them to get to know).
- For emergencies when another dog or human is approaching without consent.
- Therapy work.
GO SAY HI is a bit of a fake-out cue. What GO SAY HI means to me (and my dogs) is: go ahead and step toward that dog/human, sniff for 1-3 seconds and then come back to me. Not a simple cue but super handy if your dog knows it.
SETTING THE SCENE (and teaching the cue):
- Stand with your dog at your side, facing out (towards oncoming person; we do not want to surprise your dog).
- If your dog wants to approach the person (if not, see below) have person approach and play the role of friendly, mildly obnoxious human – “ooooh what a cute dog, I love dogs, hi doggie…”.
- As you see your dog just about to step out to greet the human, say “GO SAY HI”
- Let the human give him a quick scratch (maybe a treat) for 2-3 seconds and then have the human stand up straight and ignore your dog (so they are less exciting).
- Cue your dog back to you. A TOUCH cue works great here if your dog has a good hand target cue but you can also slap your leg, say his name, etc. – whatever works to get him back to your side.
- Once he is back at your side, give him a treat (or a few)! If you use a clicker/marker, mark when he returns to you, not when he goes towards the stranger.
- Once your dog has this, you can fade out the “touch” cue (or whatever you are using to get him back to your side) so that GO SAY HI actually means “go out and have a quick sniff and then come back and stand next to me.”
- Now you can extend your GO SAY HI to dogs. Again, only if your dog wants to go see the other dog. Use a neutral dog (dog is not terribly interested in or bothered by your dog) and have your dog to look at you first, before you give him the GO SAY HI cue. You still want to limit any on-leash greeting to 1-3 seconds.Once your dog knows GO SAY HI as above, you can extend to different circumstances:
Now, if your dog does not like people or dogs approaching you can use this as an emergency cue for when humans and dogs approach your dog uninvited like this…
- Start by teaching your dog GO SAY HI with someone your dog knows and likes first. Use a family member or friend who your dog wants to approach.
- Then, for unwanted approaches, you can throw in GO SAY HI so your dog can get a brief sniff and then stand next to you. Your dog will likely not step out towards the intruder, rather the intruder comes into his space but when the dog knows the cue and knows what happens when you say GO SAY HI it can help him cope with the intruder and he knows that the interaction will only be a second or two at the most.
- At that point, it is your responsibility to get between and/or back-off the intruder.
NOTE: I have found one of my most effective ways to get an approaching dog to back off is to throw treats at him! It won’t hurt him to be pelted with hot dogs/chicken etc., and will usually slow him down enough so you can diffuse the situation for your dog. Unfortunately, tossing hot dogs at unwanted humans approaching rarely works so you may need to find your voice to deal with them instead.