Guests At The Door: Managing Your Dog's Greeting Behavior

Dog At The DoorHowever sweet and loving your dog is, no one likes to have a dog jump up to greet them. Few people anticipate such problems, yet they are common among dog owners, especially those with newly adopted dogs, puppies, and generally exuberant canines. Potential problems can be avoided and resolved with the following advice.

You can set your dog up for success by making sure he or she is wearing a Dog Collar on a Dog Leash at all times.

Situation 1: Friends & Your Dog
If you’re out on the street and you see a friend approaching, ask your dog to sit, then step on the leash so that if the dog tries to jump up the leash will stop him. As your friend approaches say “Off” to the dog.

If your dog focuses his attention on you and not the approaching person, say “Yes” and give him a treat. If your dog tries to jump, the leash will stop him. Say “Off” once again slowly, and until after a few repetitions your dog looks toward you as if to say “what’s going on?”. At this point you can reinforce him with the word “Yes” and a cookie.

You will have to practice this scenario many times in order for your dog to make the connection that “Off” means keep four feet on the floor. You have the upper hand however, because you can reward your dog for good behavior thereby instilling in his mind the idea that calm behavior in the presence of others equals yummy treats!

Dog Treats
Above: Organic dog treats, such as Full Moon Organic Dog Treats are perfect for training your best buddy.

Situation 2: Your Dog & Guests At The Door
You’re at home and someone comes to the door. Again, your leash and treats are your best friend in this situation. Put the leash on your dog, ask your dog to sit and step on the leash. Say “Off” and when your dog is calm say “Yes” and give your dog a treat. Only then should you open the door and interact with the visitor.

It’s a good idea to enlist the help of a friend to practice this scenario several times. That way, whenever anyone approaches the door your dog will have over time built up a memory bank of correct behavior. The more times you can enable your dog to perform a behavior successfully the more consistent your dog’s responses will be in the future.

Please remember good manners are skills that need to be practiced time and time again in order to be effective. This is as true for humans as it is for dogs. If you take ten minutes a day to train your dog on a particular skill, you and your dog will be rewarded many times over.

Teaching your Fido to go to his “Place” is a great way to encourage appropriate greeting behavior in your dog. “Place” is a wonderful cue that can be used when the doorbell rings and company comes over or if you have a dog that begs at the dinner table. You can even take your dog’s “Place” with him when your on the road. All you need is a Dog Mat, Dog Bed or Dog Crate and you can begin teaching “Place”.

Merry Products Dog Crate/Gate

Above: Dogs like to have their own "place". This Merry Pet Configurable Dog Crate/Gate is a fantastic choice.

Once you’ve chosen what your dog’s “Place” will be you’ll want to introduce it to the dog on leash. Walk your dog over to his “Place” and have him sit or stand on it. If you’re using a crate then you’ll have to get the dog into the crate. When the dog is in his “Place” say “Yes!” and give him a cookie. If you clicker train, then you would click and treat at this point. Release the dog with “Ok!” and walk him away from his “Place”. Repeat this exercise several times, reinforcing your dog when he sits or stands in his “Place”. Now you can introduce a verbal cue for “Place”. Use whatever word you are comfortable with but make sure it’s not a word that you use for something else. Many of my clients simply use the word “Place”, although I’ve heard several creative variations including “Villa” and “Lounge”.

Continue to work with your dog on leash. Cue your dog to go to his “Place”, walk him over to it and reinforce him for sitting or standing on it. At this point you will need to work on distance and duration. If your dog tries to leave his “Place” without your releasing him then simply use your leash to gently stop him from going anywhere. If your dog tries to leave and then decides to stay in “Place” say “Yes!” or click and reward him with many dog treats. This is because your dog has made a decision to stay in “Place” and is beginning to understand what you’re teaching him.

Once Fido understands what “Place” is, then start working him off leash. You’ll want to train him to go to his “Place” on verbal cue when there are very few distractions. Cue your dog to go to his “Place”, reward him for doing so and then allow him to sit or stand there for several minutes. Be sure to release your dog with “Ok!” so that your dog knows when it’s ok for him to leave his “Place”.

Now it’s time to introduce some distractions. Cue your dog to go to his “Place” then get out some toys or throw some treats on the floor near him. You may want to use your leash for this exercise in case your dog leaves his “Place” to go for the distractions. If your dog remains in his “Place” with the distractions tempting him, reinforce him with “Yes!” and lots of cookies. Your dog has made a decision that it is more rewarding to stay in his “Place” then to go for the distractions.

After you’ve worked this exercise several times then you can enlist the help of a friend to start ringing your doorbell. When the doorbell rings, cue your dog to go to his “Place”. Again, because this is a new distraction you may need to use your leash to gently keep your dog in his “Place” when he hears the doorbell. Reinforce your dog with “Yes!” and lots of cookies for staying in “Place” when the doorbell rings. Practice this as many times as it takes for your dog to easily go to his place when you cue him.

Continuing on with your training, add more and more distractions. With your dog in his “Place” invite people in the house. When you are ready, release your dog with “Ok!” so he may greet your guests.

If your training your dog to go to his “Place” during mealtimes, basically follow the same instructions. One family member may have to keep your dog in his “Place” with the leash while the rest of the family eats for several training sessions until the dog understands that “Place” means stay there until released.

Remember to keep your training sessions short and fun. It’s better to train 10 minutes at a time, several times a day than to insist that your dog train for 30 minutes to an hour at a time. Be generous with treats when your dog performs the correct behavior, but never punish your dog for making a mistake. Use your management tools: your Collar and Leash, to help your dog learn to stay in “Place”. Finally, practice makes perfect so keep on training!

Managing puppies that like to jump on guests requires some extra attention. Mouthing is an instinctive part of dog behavior. In the canine world puppies need to start using their mouths to nurse within minutes of being born otherwise they will face certain death. Puppies that have strong mouthing instincts are more likely to survive than those that don’t.

As puppies mature, they experience much of the world through their mouths. The ability to mouth forms the basis of the puppy/dam relationship; it’s how puppies interact with their littermates; and it’s how puppies experience and interpret essential information in their first formative weeks of life.

This is why many Dogs Display Mouthy Behavior in their greeting and play rituals. While quite normal to dogs, mouthing is not necessarily appreciated by humans! And, because greeting is such an important part of dog behavior, it’s essential that you tailor your training to meet your dog’s specific personality.

For most puppies an increase in arousal means an increase in mouthy behavior. If you’ve ever been around puppies you know what we mean! Start playing with or even petting a puppy and most often they’ll start chewing your hands, clothes, hair and anything else they can get! This is completely normal puppy behavior.

But, what if you have an adult dog that mouths when excited? Or you just want to get a head start on puppy training? The following article will provide some quick and essential tips on how to teach your dog to greet you and others without chewing off your appendages!

Give Your Dog Appropriate Chewing Material
It’s very important to establish what is and what is not appropriate chewing material. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, you need to show your dog by example what is fair game. This means you need to stop leaving your Jimmy Choo shoes laying around for Fifi to gnaw. It also means you need to give your dog things to chew and supervise her when doing so. Squeaky Dog Toys, and raw bones (uncooked) all make great outlets for chewing, and you can use these items to teach your dog that your hands are not part of the equation!

Teach Your Pooch The Tug Game
The first step is establishing play time with your dog. The great thing about play time is that it can be training time, too! Begin by spending 10 minutes a day with your pup Playing Tug Games with her favorite dog toy. If your dog puts her mouth on you while you’re playing, say “OUCH!” really loud and walk away taking the toy with you. Wait 30 seconds and then engage her again in play. Repeat “Ouch!” each time your dog puts her mouth on you and stop the game. After several repetitions, you should notice that your dog is much more careful about where she puts her teeth. One important note: keep your tug toy separate from your dog’s other toys. You want to make the tug game really special so the toy you use needs to be really special and only brought out for this occasion.

Incorporating Toys into Greeting Behavior
Once you’ve established a nice tug rapport with your dog, you can start using your tug toy to teach greeting behavior. Keep the tug toy by the door and enlist the help of a friend. Have your friend knock on the door or ring the doorbell. Then bring out your tug toy and engage your dog the game. After a minute or so of play open the door to your guest. You want to make your guest’s entrance as uninteresting as possible. Continue to play tug with your tug and praise your dog for keeping the game going. After your guest is inside the house you can end the game of tug. The objective is to make the game more fun than greeting a guest. Initially, you’ll want to keep a leash on your dog so that if she decides that greeting the guest is more fun than the tug game you can gently lead her away from the door and into the other room. Repetition is key. Repeat this scenario over and over again until your dog hears the doorbell and immediately starts looking for a toy.

Above: West Paw's Hurley Dog Toy is made for dogs that like to chew. It is Made in America and is super durable.

When teaching your dog any new behavior, remember that it’s ok to use management tools when necessary. For instance, it’s better to put your dog in her crate if the mailman shows up with a package unexpectedly. Ideally, you want to prevent your dog from rehearsing unwanted behavior than allowing her to engage in it momentarily because you are unprepared to train. Use praise and treat liberally. And, most importantly, have fun!

Once you have your dog trained at the door, you can move onto Teaching Your Dog To Come When Called. Dog training can be fun when you take the effort to work with your pet.