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How to Keep Your Dog Calm When People Visit

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?

Annoying, right?

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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Keep a dog calm

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!”

Really?

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.

Keep your dog calm when people visit

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?

Sammie the cute pitbull mix

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

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How does your dog do when people visit? Is she perfect or is she a wild child?

Related posts:

Get all of our training tips HERE

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

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Monica Bowers

Sunday 30th of December 2018

How do I know what technique to try ? My dachshund barks incessantly at any houseguest . Fear is my guess, for a reason. He has been with us since he was 4 years old.

Kim Chappell

Monday 31st of December 2018

Hi Monica, You could go on you tube and watch a video on what PLACE command is, and how to train it. You can also check out e collar training while you are there. You will get an idea of what technique would be best for you. Often adding structure to the household works well. I use all my dogs food for rewards in training or in interactive toys (Kong wobbler/Kong rubber toys) so the dog gets to work for its meals. Extra mental and physical exercise can do wonders, dogs were meant to be on the move. :)

Kim Chappell

Sunday 9th of December 2018

I try and be proactive with my dog and stop the issue before it starts if I can. If I know someone is coming, I will get ready to work with the dog before they arrive. I train PLACE command ( I use a dog cot, dog is not allowed to bark, whine, dig, spin, get off cot without a release word. Start training this using a leash, train the dog the word QUIET and DOWN with duration added in, if dog gets off cot, put them right back on. Praise for good behavior -treat too as long as dog stays calm.) I train using a QUALITY low level remote collar - the dog is trained to look to the handler when it feels a stimulation on its neck. Once the dog understands the collar I can use that to enforce LEARNED behaviors at low levels. I use a Mini Educator, and most dogs work under 10 out of 100 levels. A very good tool for communication. I prefer to train the dog to a remote collar and verbal commands before going to a bark collar, so they better understand what they are feeling from the collar.

Thank you to Lindsay for all her great tips and advise, you are helping many people ( and dogs!) have better lives. :)

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 9th of December 2018

Your advice sounds great!

Sherill

Thursday 8th of March 2018

These are great tips. We have definitely tried a lot of them with Winnie, but I think sometimes we (the humans) are so focussed on our guests or that important delivery that we forget to be consistent. We will normally put Winnie in her crate when complete strangers come into our home (ie. to fix the furnace etc.). That is mainly for the visitor's sake since they may be uncomfortable around dogs. Often I let her out after a few minutes since by then she is calm and will just stay with me. If we know someone pretty well, but Winnie has never met them before, she is usually calm and polite when greeting them since they are an 'approved stranger' I guess. :-) She is also good with people she knows but doesn't see all the time: my sister visited the other day and Winnie just walked over and said a calm hello. My parents, however, visited yesterday and Winnie went NUTS. She was so excited she barely let them get in the door. I kept telling her to go to her 'place' - the mat we keep for her on the kitchen floor - which she normally does really consistently but she just completely ignored me. She obviously knows my parents will reward her with attention and that I will be less strict with her in front of them. Asking them to ignore her when they arrive would help a lot. Our biggest problem with Winnie and visitors is her reaction to the doorbell. She freaks out every time it rings, whimpering and whining and running around. It drives us nuts and we thought we had tried everything, but there are a couple tips in your post that we haven't done yet, so we will give those a go. Thanks for the post and to everyone for their replies too!

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 8th of March 2018

It's a team effort! Haha. Glad to help.

Caitlin Kunkel

Monday 24th of July 2017

Thank you for this!! I have a sweet girl, Raven, and she is a love... When guests come over she's very excited and whips her tail hard in her crate... We currently keep her in her crate until she calms down a little bit and then we bring her out... We tell everyone to push her down ( gently) if she gets to be too much and that she has a sweet spot on her stomach that calms her almost immediately... I love all your points and an going to try them!!

Keith Amdur

Saturday 8th of April 2017

Oh boy this is a good blog for me.Emma Lou is a good dog outside.In the house she great till she hears someone or a knock at the door.She barks pops up and runs to the door barking away.I have done treats.Make her sit and wait,etc.The next time there is a knock at the door right back to crazy.Sit,stay the whole thing again,she good after they come in until the next time.I almost give up.Once the person is in the house she calms down.Its right when people come to the house and knock she goes crazy with barking.I need to rethink this one and fix it.