Does your dog become uncontrollable when people visit?
You know, sleeping soundly one second and then jumping, running, whining, barking and pacing as soon as someone rings the doorbell?
If that’s your dog, the following are some tips that can help!
Tips to keep your dog calm when people visit
One of the hardest things to do is get and keep a dog’s attention when he hears a trigger like a doorbell.
Below is a list of tips and tricks you can use to help re-capture and keep a dog’s attention when you need it most.
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1. First things first, use the best treats!
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “But my dog just doesn’t care about treats!”
Is it because your treats are boring?
Try using highly valued, smelly treats your dog can’t ignore. Hold them right up to your dog’s nose if you have to when re-gaining his attention.
It might also be helpful to keep your dog on a short leash. My Patreon members reviewed the traffic lead from Mighty Paw. Keeping your dog on a leash at the door, especially a shorter leash, can make a big difference!
2. Provide lots of exercise
I know, I know. If only it were that easy. But it does make a big difference.
The less pent-up energy your dog has, the easier it will be for her to remain calm. That doesn’t mean you take her for a two-hour hike on Saturday. It means two 45-minute walks every day or whatever it is she needs. Tips for tiring out a dog here.
3. Work on your dog’s general obedience training
Most dogs don’t even respond to a basic stay with mild distractions so of course they aren’t going to follow commands when someone comes to the door. That is way too distracting!
Start with the basics and keep working so your dog has some seriously solid obedience skills for things like sit, stay, come, heel, down, etc. It makes a big difference. Let me know if you need some suggestions. Tips on teaching a dog to stay.
4. Decide what you want your dog to do, and practice
Instead of “just be calm” what do you really want?
Do you want your dog to lie down and stay on her bed?
Do you want her to calmly walk to the door without barking?
For example: I want my dog Ace to bark no more than once and then calmly follow me to the door, sitting when told and giving people space. No jumping or barking.
5. Determine what your dog needs to meet the above expectations
Does she temporarily need to wear her leash in the house while you’re home, at least when you’re expecting visitors? Do you need better food rewards, like bits of hotdogs?
Do you need to practice having people ring the doorbell a few times a day?
Do your guests need to do better at ignoring your dog?
6. Set up scenarios so you can practice keeping your dog calm
Of course your dog will be extremely excited if 50 people are coming and going one day for a graduation party. She hasn’t had a chance to practice the right behavior in less exciting scenarios.
You wouldn’t expect your dog to stay 30 feet away from you for 10 minutes on the day you taught her the stay command, right? She would need weeks of practice in very small steps to work up to that point.
It’s the same concept with being calm at the door. She needs to practice in small steps with less excitement.
7. Address your dog, then answer the door
When someone knocks or rings the doorbell, it’s OK to take 15 seconds to address your dog. Cesar Millan would say this on his show all the time and it really made sense to me. I don’t care what your opinion is of Cesar, that is good advice.
Rushing to the door with anxiety or excitement only makes your dog feel the same.
Pause. Take a breath. Correct any barking. Wait for your dog to calm down. Then answer the door.
Other tips to keep your dog calm when people visit
- Put your dog in another room with a Kong toy or bone to chew on.
- Knock and ring the bell randomly throughout the day to desensitize your dog
- Don’t make a big deal when you arrive home, and ask other family members to do the same
- Use a bark collar if needed
How does your dog do when people visit? Is she perfect or is she a wild child?
- How to stop a dog from jumping on people
- How to stop a dog from barking at the door
- How to teach a dog to go to her bed
Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.