Labby’s advice for correcting another person’s dog

Dear Labby,

My mother-in-law’s Golden Retriever is a jumper. She’s a friendly dog, and I like her, but she’s pretty big and I don’t care for the constant, attention-seeking jumping. My mother-in-law and I have not always been on great terms so I don’t want to rock the boat by chastising her precious pet. On the other hand, I’d like them both to get the message that this behavior is not appreciated. What’s the proper etiquette for correcting someone else’s dog?


Put Off by Undisciplined, Needy Canine Energy

Who doesn’t fancy himself a dog expert, P.O.U.N.C.E., and relish the chance to drop pearly liver bits of wisdom on naïfs such as ourselves? So bank some points with your mother-in-law by asking her advice. Something along the lines of: “I’m sure you’re teaching Cricket not to jump – how can I help reinforce proper behavior?”

It’s not unlikely your mother-in-law will respond with, “Oh I don’t mind if she jumps!” In that case, it’s up to you to set boundaries. Turn away from the dog as soon as you notice her front paws come off the ground; she’s looking for face-to-face contact, but if you quickly turn away from her, she’ll eventually learn that jumping does not get her what she wants. At least not with you.

In general, the rule is to leave the correcting to the owner. The exceptions are when safety’s at stake. Or when you’ve got a lemon meringue pie in your hands and the Retriever hasn’t eaten since morning.