Every dog owner loves it when their dog greets them happily as soon as they get home with excited yelps and a crazy tail wagging. Those big, soulful eyes and that silly little face are hard to top. What causes this unadulterated joy from your dog? Is it due to the fact that your arrival might mean it will soon be feeding time? Are they just really pumped to finally be able to go to the bathroom? Either possibility is likely, but science is telling us that your dog actually just loves you so much that they are excited that you are back!
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The Root of the Behavior
The obvious answer here is that they missed you. In all cases, this is almost certainly true. Dogs can be very affectionate and grow sad when their owner is away from the home and can get very excited when you return. This is also true for guests. Dogs who love people will get excited when a person comes around, and so when someone new comes to the home it feels like a treat, like something special. This can be exacerbated by how you or your guests react to this behavior when you enter the home. If you get equally as excited and start petting or playing with them, then you are reinforcing their behavior. Try to reduce the energy of the home when you come in. They will take cues from you and your guests and if it is not something special to you, it will likely become less special to them.
As time goes on and this behavior is reinforced it can become harder and harder to deal with, and they will become less accepting of your attempts to change it. Try to enter the home and pay them little regard during the first few minutes when you arrive. If you do not react to their excitement then they will, over time, learn they will not get your attention by acting spastic when you enter the home. Some of this behavior can be hereditary as we have bred dogs that seemingly loved us most over dogs that did not care about our comings and goings. This process, over a thousand years of dog and human companionship, is known as selective breeding.
Many dogs, especially small breeds, suffer from forms of separation anxiety. The rush you may be seeing when you come home can simply be the relief of the anxiety they feel when you are away from the home. Separation anxiety can dwindle over time and is more common in younger dogs, which is why puppies often act this way while older dogs do not.
Encouraging the Behavior
Your reactions teach your dog nearly everything and end up dictating much of their behavior. Be mindful of how you enter the home and what lessons you may be imparting to your four-legged friend. In cases of separation anxiety, the root cause will likely have to be addressed first if it can. Small dogs often have separation anxiety as a simple byproduct of their breeding. In earlier and less developed times, small dogs needed to stay close to their owners so they could be protected from predators and unexpected attacks. The ones who had the stronger need to be near their companions often survived where the ones who did not have this form of anxiety were picked off. Over time this led to a behavioral shift of that breed, as the dogs with these anxieties bred where the ones who did not exhibit the same behavior died off before reproducing. Unlike human selected traits, these traits were passed down over time through the process known as natural selection or environmentally selected traits. Traits gotten this way are exceptionally difficult to correct as it is a trait that is coded into their genetics. That being said, a trainer or behavioral specialist should be able to instill the correct behaviors and address their anxiety. This will be your best approach in small breeds.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Although it feels nice to come home to dogs that pour affection all over you, it can be stressful to visitors and inconvenient to you. Dealing with behaviors you do not like can be challenging, but with a set structure and some best practices around your home, they can be easier to deal with than you think. Contacting a behavioral specialist or trainer can give you a big head start to correcting these behaviors in your four-legged friend. If you would prefer to do it on your own, you now have some tips and tricks as well as a better understanding of what is causing your dog to behave this way.
That being said, it is adorable. If you like to have your dog lose their little minds when you come home, then all power to you. It certainly does not hurt them and is not a sign of any serious medical conditions. If you do want to get them to calm down then you have a few different ways of making that happen.