Training Tip Tuesday – Meet & Greets

TRAINING TIP TUESDAY – meet & greets

By: Margaux Meyer

Today’s #TrainingTipTuesday is about Meet and Greets! Meet and Greets are part of all dogs lives, but are especially important for fosters! One way to ensure a quality meet and greet experience is to create a routine and practice it. Meet and greets can be awkward for dogs – they have to do a new process, meet a new person, and that person is very very interested in them. By practicing your meet and greet process, the dog is able to know what to expect and have a routine, even when the people are new.
Make a Plan:
Ask yourself “What is a meet and greet plan that works for me and my foster that I can do consistently”. Decide what location, treats, and strategies you’ll use. Think about contingency plans if it’s raining and what things make the dog comfortable or uncomfortable. What are the other members of the household supposed to do?
Write down the Plan:
Write down every step of the process, including how much time each step takes. Be practical and realistic and include a range if necessary (1-5 minutes to leash). Start with the steps that you need to be ready for the meet and greet, like putting on your shoes and grabbing poop bags, or looking out the window or hearing a buzzer. Go through the plan with other household members.
Practice the Plan:
Practice Alone: Go through the full plan alone – get your keys and shoes, find the treats, and go through all of the steps. Ask yourself – how does this feel? Is the street too busy or are there too many distractions?
Practice with just the dog: Go through the full plan with the dog and no extra people. Go through the whole meet and greet and give treats throughout the whole process.
Practice with a friend: Have a friend over and go through the plan as if they’re a potential adopter. (Bonus points if the dog has met your friend). Pay attention to each step, how long it took, and how the dog responded. Give treats throughout the whole process. Have your friend also give treats. Things to look for: did the dog engage with the friend? Were they relaxed and interested, or were they reluctant or fearful?
Keep Practicing: Practice the meet and greet (with just the dog and with friends or family members) a few times a week. This helps the dog have a routine they can rely on when new people (not just potential adopters!) come over.
Stick to it: Before you have someone new over, tell them the meet and greet process. Feel free to email them or have the written plan printed out for new people. Even if everything is going well, stick to the routine. It’s not “too much” or “too strict”, its setting the dog up for success and creating positive associations The more positive or easy meet and greets, the more confident the dog will become.
Common meet and greet tactics:
  1. Go on a walk– have the new person join you on a walk before greeting the dog. The dog will know the new person joined and will be able to get used to them without a lot of stress.
  2. Toss treats towards and away from the new person. Have the new person also toss treats away from themselves. The dog knows who threw the treat and can get used to the new person without feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Meet in the yard: Have the dog on a leash and meet in the yard. Allow the dog to sniff and approach at their own pace.
  4. Have the dog in another room before meeting in the house. This is especially helpful if the dog struggles with people coming in and out of the door.
  5. Always: Let the dog approach the person. Do not force the dog to approach or interact with the person (even with treats).
Blog and graphic by Margaux Meyer, one of Ruff Start Rescue’s volunteer trainers, who focus on supporting our fosters and helping create successful dogs. She owns and operates A Better Walk Dog Training (