A Perfect Pup in Six Months?

Here’s my confession. I’m not a very inner-directed person. I need accountability–preferably with the likelihood of severe embarrassment at the end if I don’t meet my targets. Here’s where you come in.

Honey and I have two big goals to meet.

  1. Pass our Canine Good Citizen test as a first step to doing other volunteer work together (fostering or guide dog puppy raising or ?).
  2. Attend Blog Paws together in August.
Golden Retriever Dog in Snow

Of course, I'm ready. It's you I'm worried about.

Unfortunately, with a full time job, two part-time blogs, and all kinds of housework, exercise, and family to neglect, I’ve gotten away from regular training sessions with Honey.

This isn’t a disaster. Honey is an “easy” dog. But we have two main areas of worry, both related to her “greeting disorder.” You see, Honey loves to meet new people. And new dogs.

The Canine Good Citizen test requires a dog to accept petting calmly from a stranger and that she stand quietly when someone approaches with another dog. I don’t think that leaping up in someone’s arms when they visit or chasing after the first dog she sees at the park meet the criteria for the test.

My plan is to work with Honey for at least five minutes every day.

Feel free to suggest training exercises that will teach her to be calm when greeting the very best person in the world (who is basically everyone she ever meets). Yell at me for wasting the past month by not working with her regularly. Tell me I’m stupid for taking the friendliest Golden Retriever in the world to a crowded conference filled with dog lovers.

And I’ll know you’re watching. And that I have to meet my goal.


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  1. It’s a good goal! Try having people come up and completely ignore her – give her a command. If she breaks it, have the person walk away and try again. Just don’t overdo it – a couple of minutes everyday!


    • Thanks, Sam. We’re working on that. The harder thing is finding volunteers capable of ignoring a Golden Retriever. :)

      Of course my mom is pretty good. She likes to look at Honey but she has no intention of ever touching her.

  2. Our trainer(s) (we’ve used three different ones!) always said 15 minutes practice a day. That’s where we fall down, and that’s why Our Best Friend still rushes the door when someone enters. Fortunately, he never jumps on people, ’cause he’d knock ’em flying! And while he’s fine with other dogs off-leash at the park, there’s usually a major barkfest if we pass a pup on the street.

    Wish I was going to Blog Paws with you! (And congrats on your award from Rescued Insanity! I look forward to reading your list of lies! :) )

    • I find that working a little bit at a time at different times in the day works best for me. I’m going to shoot for 5 minutes for now because Honey’s so extra-intelligent. :) It has nothing to do with my being a lazy trainer, I swear.

      BTW, I just love seeing you refer to OBF.

      Oh, and I’ll try to have my thanks for the award and list of lies, damn lies, and statistics up tomorrow. Congrats right back at ya.

  3. Not to let you off the hook, but, hey, I have a three year old golden, and I STILL can’t get Cassie to calmly greet visitors! I had visions of her being my next therapy dog, but we haven’t even done the CGC yet, mostly because I don’t think it will be a good bonding experience for us because she just can’t calm herself down. I don’t think it’s in her genetic markup to control her enthusiasm yet… somebody tell me I’m wrong here, but we’ve also been to several trainers and watch the “dog training” shows faithfully and so far, the best I can do is send both dogs to their crate before I open the door. Otherwise, she jumps up. Everybody says, “it’s a golden thing”… very frustrating!

    • I know I’ve had expectations that were too high for Honey from the beginning. I am really asking her to go against her nature.

      For now, I’m not asking her to sit or stay or lie down. Just move around with all four paws on the floor and a toy in her mouth. If we can get that down solid, I’ll be fine.

      I’ll try to keep your words about Cassie in mind. I’ve never experienced Golden enthusiasm before.

  4. Instead of focusing on the hardest thing right away (controlling enthusiasm when meeting new dogs or people), how about trying to get her to lay down for food? When that becomes easy, then try one person with one dog over and over until that becomes easy. Then try a new strange person, new strange dog, etc. That method worked for me. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the reminder to take slow, easy steps. Lying down for food is a piece of cake for Honey. She loves her food but it’s nothing compared to a new face. :)

  5. Your situation with Honey is so completely different than mine with Sadie especially where meeting people is concerned, but that won’t stop me from making a couple of suggestions. My first inclination with meeting people or dogs would be to do this at a distance where she is close enough to notice the person and far enough away to stay under threshold. Then, I’d click and treat her for calmly looking at the person (or dog). Then I’d add sitting. So look at person at a distance, sit, click treat. Slowly, slowly, close the distance until happy Honey can sit to greet a human up close. The other thing I might try as it might be faster is teach her a really strong sit. Proof it with lots of distractions. Once she has her dit down really solid, then you could teach her an incompatible behavior, sit, when she greets someone. Have the person Honey is greeting to turn away from Honey and back up if Honey gets up. So the reward for sitting is the person coming nearer to her. As soon as Honey get up, the person backs away until Honey sits and then the person moves closer again. And, so on.

    Good luck! Nothing like having goals!

    • I’ve tried the sit and found it was just a bit too much to expect. But I really like your suggestion of clicking and treating for a calm response at a distance. I used the same approach with Shadow’s dog reactivity and it worked great. It never occurred to me to use it for over-friendliness. But it makes sense. It’s also good because I can enlist the help of people without them knowing it. :)

  6. Very good goals! I need to work with Luna on the same thing as she gets so excited to meet new people. Her new thing is to immediately roll over on her back side when being approached by humans. It’s like she forgets what ‘sit’ means and goes belly up. I would also like to eventually attend Blog Paws. I just can’t seem to fit it in with my work schedule. Soon! :)

    • It sounds like Luna does exactly what trainers tell you to work on–offering an incompatible behavior. You can’t jump up on someone at the same time as you’re rolling over on your back, can you? :)

      Did you work on that with her or did Luna think of it on her own?

  7. One thing that has helped us here is putting a short leash on Cassie when we have visitors over. For some reason, she goes into a different mode knowing that the leash is there. We’ve been working on hanging out with people by having her be in the room with us, with somebody keeping a foot on the leash and everybody ignoring her. (This is very hard for the humans to do) Once she is relaxed and the excitement has gone, she starts getting some attention and treats, provided she remains calm.

  8. Georgia has a greeting disorder too, with other dogs. She’s calmed down a lot, I have no idea how or why. She mostly reacts badly to OTHER dogs with greeting disorders! She can look scary, even to me. Can’t imagine how the other (sometimes littledog) owner must feel. If you have success with Honey, please let me know how you did it.

    P.S. Have you checked my stalker story yet? :p PLEASE don’t be afraid. I’m quite harmless.

  9. My suggestion … teach Honey a “look at that” command that gives her permission to *look* at the approaching dog or person, but then also (in the long run) ends the behavior by looking back to you for her reward for successfully LAT-ing.

    I train best in very small chunks (5 min/20 treats) and with daily/weekly goals. I actually print off a sheet with a checkbox for each day, along with what I’m supposed to do. I find it very reinforcing to be able to check off a box!

  10. I’d say work on the problem with people first. Set her up for success. Get a friend to help you and have that person ignore her until she’s sitting calmly, then pet her and maybe treat her, but if she starts getting wound again, back off.

    I think meeting other dogs can be managed with a strong “watch me” command. If she starts to learn that good things come from you when she pays attention to you and not other dogs, she can probably learn to ignore strange dogs. It’s a lot easier in theory and talking about it than actual application at first, though! lol

    I am sure she’ll do great with both goals!

  11. Good for you, these are awesome goals! I still am crazy enough to think we can pass the CGC test one day as well. Shiva’s problems are almost identical to Honey’s, which makes me feel a lot less awful. Though, her problems with greeting and jumping on people stem from very different things I suspect. The hardest part is no doubt acting calm around other dogs. It is really hard for us to practice properly. I think more trips to the dog park may be in order.

    There is a lot of really good advice here. I know what we have to do, keep Shiva at our side until she looks at us to ask permission to greet another dog and then let her greet the dog as a reward. Start from a safe distance at first with some loose-leash walking and rapid treating and then gradually move closer using less treats. We can’t let her greet a dog unless she is calm. This is not always easy to do given I have no control over other dogs or other dogs’ humans.

    Good on you for going to Blog Paws! I can’t wait to read everyone’s stories!