I received a call the other day from a woman in Charlottesville, VA who is having some trouble with her dog. Every evening when she comes home from work and walks through the front door she is immediately jumped on by her rather large and exuberant lab. She says the dog is uncontrollable for the first 15 minutes after she gets home and he can get extremely vocal, barking and whining and will follow her around the house literally tripping her by getting underfoot. Unfortunately I get calls like this all the time; a common problem that dog owners struggle with.
Many people feel really guilty about leaving their dog home alone and are very excited to see them when they return home. Having a dog who is over-the-top happy to see you when you get home is quite the ego-boost and makes us humans feel good. However, this overly dramatic greeting and leaving behavior makes for a dog who gets very anxious being left alone and overly excited often jumping, nipping, barking or whining whenever the owner returns home. This type of anxiety can also easily lead to Separation Anxiety. I recommend making these events as uneventful as possible. When leaving, put your dog in his crate (or wherever he usually stays when home alone, although I HIGHLY recommend crates for this), say a brief goodbye and by brief I literally mean tell your dog something like in a calm tone and then leave. Feel free to leave a safe chew toy or a stuffed Kong toy to keep your dog happy and occupied when you are gone but don’t make a big fuss.
When returning home, wait to let your dog out of his crate until after you take your shoes off, put your keys/purse away, maybe check the mail, and get yourself situated first. Then go to your dog and if he is calm, let him out of the crate. If he is overly excited and barking, whining or generally going bananas in his crate, leave the room until he calms down. If you have an uncrated dog in the house when you return, do the same things above, waiting to acknowledge your dog until you are situated and he is calm. This may mean waiting and ignoring him for 10-15 minutes until he calms down. When he is finally calm, give him a quick, calm hello and a small pat (think massage not fast strokes for petting). Save the energy and dramatics for playtime later on.