Second only to housebreaking, this may be the area where most dog owners go wrong. Teaching your dog how to behave with guests is a big issue, that often gets overlooked. Most people haven’t a clue of what to do when their dog barks non-stop at the doorbell. Most people are so embarrassed when their dog jumps all over their guest that having the dog out around guest becomes overwhelming, so they just confine the dog. Confinement is certainly a viable option, but it should only be used temporarily until you train your dog how to behave around guest. In this post, we’re going to tackle a few simple solutions to address common scenarios between dogs and your guests.
Ok, so first, let’s adjust your perception a little bit so you can see things from the dog’s perspective. We know dogs thrive off of routine and whenever things change it can be difficult for them to adapt. Someone visiting your home is a break from their normal routine. Depending on your dog, he can see your guest as a new friend, or potential threat. Regardless of the dog’s intent, it’s your responsibility to teach your dog how you’d like him to behave in the given situation. Point blank, you need to control your dog’s greetings.
Keep in mind when teaching dogs anything, it’s vital to plan ahead and be prepared. Part of your job as your dog’s caretaker is to control his environment as much as possible. We’re going to cover three options for controlling greetings. Some of these lessons can stand alone and others need to be used in combination with the others. The three controls we’re going to explore are Proper Intros, Go To Your Bed, and Confinement.
Step 1 – You should ask your guest to let you know they are arriving so you can be prepared.
Step 2 – Grab your leash and some treats. Sit the treats close to the door and connect the leash to the dog’s collar.
Step 3 – When your guest arrive and ring the bell or knock, go ahead and collect the dog’s leash. Put your dog on a SIT-STAY by your side. If he’s barking, wait for him to settle a little before you open the door. NOTE: If you’re dog is exhibiting real aggression by lunging, barking, and showing his teeth; then you should definitely seek the help of a professional trainer. If you’re in the LA area, contact us.
Step 4 – Once you open the door, invite your guest in and move your dog a few feet deeper into the house. Ask your guest to come in and completely ignore the dog. Part of controlling your dog’s environment is controlling the people in the environment as well. Don’t be shy about this. If your guest aren’t calm and give the dog too much attention, your dog won’t be able to control himself.
Step 5 – You want to have your guest grab a couple of the treats that you’ve placed by the door. While you have the dog on a SIT-STAY by your side, ask your guest to throw a treat on the floor halfway between themselves and the dog. Don’t let the dog just grab the treat.
Step 6 – When you’re ready, tell the dog to GO VISIT, and then let the dog grab the treat. As soon as the dog grabs the treat, say GOOD, and back them out.
Step 7 – Next, you want to reset your dog in a SIT-STAY on your side. Tell your guest to hold their hand out flat with the treat. Tell them not to pet the dog or say anything to the dog.
Step 8 – When you’re ready and your dog is settled, tell him GO VISIT. Allow him to grab the treat out of your guest’s hands say GOOD, and back him out.
To practice this behavior, first start off with people the dog already knows like people who live in the house with the dog . As the dog begins to understand the game, move on to your friends or family who frequently visit your home. After he’s proficient with them, you can progress to actual strangers. When introducing your dog to strangers make sure he’s not showing any hesitation with going forward to get the treat. If he does, he’s telling your he’s not comfortable with that person, so don’t force the interaction.
Proper intros are critical for socialization, but can not stand alone when training your dog how to behave with guests. After the intro is done, you must choose one of the other two control options.
GO TO YOUR BED
The bed will give your dog a place to go that is out of the way. It’s his safe place. He can’t come off and mess with anyone, and no one can go over and mess with him either. By the way, no one means YOU too. If you want to engage with your dog, release him from the bed before you do so. The bed has to be his bit of personal space in the house.
Step 1 – Place the bed where you want it before you start. Keep in mind it’s best to put it in a corner where the dog is blocked by two walls, but can see what’s going on in the house. Leash your dog, and grab some high value treats.
Step 2 – Place your dog on a SIT-STAY by your left side. You should stand no more than 2 feet away from the bed.
Step 3 – Hold the leash with your left hand close to the dog’s neck. Call your dog’s name, and with your right hand, slowly swing a the high-value treat past your dog’s nose up to your chin. When the dog looks up, toss the treat to the far corner of their bed.
Step 4 – Give your dog the command GO TO YOUR BED, and let your dog run to the treat on the bed. The moment the dog has all four paws on the bed, say GOOD. keep your praise relatively calm as not to make the dog come off the bed. The dog does not have to sit or down. The dog should be able to sit, stand, turn or do whatever he wants on the bed, so long as none of his paws touch the floor. The bed has to be big enough for the dog to lay down and keep all four of his paws on the bed.
Step 5 – As your dog is eating the treat, tell him GOOD, and throw another treat on the bed. Make sure your dog keeps all four paws on the bed. If he steps off, immediately say NO, GO TO YOUR BED. Lure the dog back on the bed, say GOOD and throw another treat on the bed.
Now is a good time to tell you that it’s important that the treats come from the bed and not your hand. Always let the treats come from the bed as that gives the bed value. The dog will want to stay where he knows he will get rewards. If he’s getting rewards from your hand, then he’s going to want to get up and come to you.
Step 6 – After your dog has stayed on the bed for a few seconds eating the treats that you’ve been dropping, tell him OK, RELEASE, and lead the dog off of the bed with the leash.
Step 7 – Repeat Steps 1 through 6 a few times. Once the dog is going quickly to the bed, two things change. 1. You can stop throwing the treat to lure him onto the bed. Simply give him the command GO TO YOUR BED. Say GOOD and throw him a treat once all four paws are on. 2. You can make him stay longer and reward him with treats less frequently.
Step 8 – Make sure that once the dog is staying well, you add some distractions to test him. For example, place some treats on the ground about a foot away from the bed. If he gets ups to go, tell him NO, GO TO YOUR BED, lure him back and say GOOD. If he doesn’t get up and go for the treats on the ground, say GOOD and throw a different treat onto the bed. Another distraction would be someone talking to the dog in a high pitched tone and patting themselves. Use the leash to bring the dog back to the bed if he steps off. If he doesn’t budge, say GOOD and reward the dog with a treat.
Practice this often over a period of a couple of weeks and your dog will be pretty rock solid with the command. Stay consistent and patient. Also, keep in mind that GO TO YOUR BED is not a correction or way to punish your dog. It’s simply a way to keep your dog out of trouble or out of the way.
A third control option is the use of confinement. You can confine your dog behind a baby gate, confine him to a room, confine him to the yard, or confine hm to a crate. If your dog isn’t a fan of the crate, check out our article on Train Your Dog To Love The Crate.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, confining your dog when you have guest is a temporary solution. Temporary represents two things in this context. The first is when you have guest who will only be in your home briefly. For example, the pizza delivery guy, the UPS delivery man, or even the cable guy. In those cases, I don’t see the purpose of my dog meeting them. Our use of temporary in the second context is to define the amount of time it takes you to proficiently teach your dog the GO TO YOUR BED command.
If confinement is not done temporarily, it can compound your dog’s reactivity to guest. It can make the dog feel insecure about what is happening in the home because he can not see what’s going on. This can create anxiety and over stimulate the dog. At that point, you’ll get a bunch of barking and other dogly protest. Most people at this point will only let the dog in if he calms down, but the more time he’s confined, the worse he gets, so he never gets to come in. As you can see, confinement if done improperly will send your dog in a downward spiral. For the sake of your dog’s socialization, teach him proper introductions and how to go to his bed.
Bedlam when guests arrive is an all too common scene for most dog owners. Your visitors come in… no one is in control and no one is comfortable. If you teach your pup some simple manners, he will become a pleasure to be around. It will make it a lot easier to live with him, and travel with him. Be a positive representative for dog owners!