Have any of you succeeded in keeping your dogs calm when people visit?
This isn’t exactly a “how to” post but more of a place to shoot some ideas around. Every dog is different, and the standard advice to “Just tell the dog to stay on her bed” is not as easy as it sounds, is it?
I’ll share just three ideas, and then it would be great if you shared some tips as well. What has or has not worked for your dog?
1. Get a family member to help.
Expecting a dog to stay on her bed reliably when guests arrive is likely too challenging for most dogs. So, recruit a friend to help reinforce “stay” while you answer the door or vice versa.
Keep the dog on a leash and toss her bits of bacon or hot dogs as she remains staying. You may need to stand right in front of her and “body block” her if she tries to get up.
You could also request that guests don’t ring the doorbell (just have them text you or have them walk on in).
Also, set your dog up for success by putting her bed in a spot that is a room or two away from the main door. Not totally excluded, but a step back from all the “excitement.” As she is successful, you can move her bed.
2. Have a plan in advance.
Usually we don’t plan or practice the behaviors we want from our dogs. Instead, we only know what we don’t want them to do.
If we could only come up with a consistent plan and then practice it, we might make some actual progress! (Isn’t that true with everything?)
So, come up with a specific plan, and make it easy at first. Then practice it and slowly challenge your dog a bit more once she’s ready.
Here is an example of a plan for my hypothetical dog named Lady. Each of these are steps I could work towards with Lady:
- When someone comes to the door, I will tell Lady to go to her kennel, which is in the kitchen away from the excitement but not too excluded. Her bed will be in her kennel, and I will have a Kong (aff link) ready, stuffed with peanut butter. I will give her the Kong in her kennel. I will ignore Lady until the guests are settled in, and then after about 30 minutes I will let Lady out on a leash to calmly interact.
- After we’ve practiced the above with success, I will start leaving the kennel door open when people arrive, but I will tell Lady to stay. She will still get her Kong toy, and she will still remain in her kennel until everyone’s settled in. If she tries to get out of her kennel, I will put her back and close the door. We will practice “stay” in her kennel every day while I ring the doorbell to practice “real life” scenarios.
- Finally, once Lady is doing well with the above, I will remove the kennel and tell Lady to stay on her bed. I will still use the Kong to encourage her to stay on her bed, and she will still be on a leash.
3. Figure out the best food reward for your dog.
It’s tough to find a food reward dogs value more than greeting visitors. Dry biscuits just aren’t going to cut it. Try hot dogs, hamburger, bacon, EZ cheese or liver treats.
And, I do believe that sometimes there really is no food that’s going to keep a dog away from people (right, Elsie?).
If that’s the case for your dog, you have your work cut out for you. But you can still see progress by practicing the above tips – recruiting help and gradually challenging your dog more and more.
The #1 problem is we don’t practice these scenarios and dogs really need hundreds of repetitions to really understand a concept. Staying on your bed while really exciting people visit is a very difficult concept for some dogs!
OK, now I want to hear from you.
What tips have helped your dog stay calm when people visit?
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