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.

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 and I recently reviewed the new 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

  • Use a bark collar if needed
  • 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 dog whistle to interrupt barking or jumping and reward a behavior such as “sit”
  • Put your dog in another room with a Kong toy or bone to chew on.

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

Related posts:

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

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

28 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Dog Calm When People Visit”

  1. You wrote this for Maya, didn’t you? 😉 My Maya is so crazy when people come over. I’ve done all of the above that you’ve mentioned except #6. I bet I would have a lot more success if I could be consistent. And I could be more consistent if I would have one of my fiends to come by on a regular basis. I know for a fact that she would be less crazy when people came over if I were more consistent. She used to go crazy at meal times. But I consistently make her and Pierson sit and stay while I get their food ready. Maya drools all over the floor, but she has learned that meal times come faster if she is calm.

  2. We are a grab bag of door behavior. We have gotten so many deliveries with blogging, we don’t care much when the bell rings, but if we hear voices of people we want to see we run to the door. If Mom knows people are coming, we get something to chew on right before they arrive. Most of the time we are pretty good.

  3. Because Theo is protective, we implemented a rule that we have to put him in the crate before we open the door. He loves treats so much that it is easy to distract him from the door to going into a crate. I’m sure it might be bothersome for some people to have to wait (especially when it is cold outside), but better safe than sorry. These tips are great and I know they would work with Nelly and Sophie.

  4. We’ve done pretty much all of these. We always start by putting Rita out back. She can see the front door through the glass back door, so she can see who’s coming in, and see that we’re ‘safe’ and then we let her in once she’s calm. But …. one of the biggest problems is training THE GUESTS! If guests ignore her at first, she does GREAT. But if the guest starts reaching for her and trying to engage with her before she’s gotten to know them (usually accompanied by “It’s okay; I LOVE dogs!”), then she will bark like mad at them. Maybe I should give the guests treats (I could have peanuts or chocolate kisses at the ready) to give them when they behave calmly. 🙂

  5. I used to tell Haley “Grandma’s coming!” which of course got her all worked up and excited and grandmas don’t appreciate that too much, right? It’s kind a no-brainer, but I stopped giving her a heads up when guests were coming over. Exercise works the best for Haley, I take her outside for a play session 30 minutes before a party. I just had to remember to allow for that in the party planning schedule.

  6. “When someone knocks or rings the doorbell, it’s OK to take 15 seconds to address your dog.” I’ve always thought this, too, but I’ve found that if I do it the person at the door hears me and starts making more fuss than the dog! I had this UPS guy impatient to get on with his day so when he heard me saying things like “uh-uh!” to my dog he started knocking and ringing like he had a gaggle of zombies on his heels. I was not impressed. Then sometimes friends and neighbors will start shouting things like, “Hey! I’m hear!” I guess I need to stage visitors.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would start right away at 8 weeks. Of course, they’re not going to have an attention span of more than a few seconds, but it’s good to at least start working on it.

  7. I’ve been dealing with this all week! We’ve got a spot for a new roommate so lots of people have been coming over to check out the house. New people are very exciting for Kaya. She responds well to my “serious voice” but that’s not exactly something I want to do in front of someone I’m trying to make a good impression to! Give her something to hold or chew helps a lot. She might just carry it around but it keeps her from being so jumpy and pushy.

    At least she settles down quickly now. When she was younger…wow. She would yelp and yowl with excitement. Neighbors probably thought she was being tortured!

  8. This is something we definitely need to start working on more. We’ve had the luxury of having a gate installed at the end of the hallway before the workout room, from which the front door opens. We’ll be moving to a new house in a few months, and we won’t have a good place to put a gate. We definitely need to work on our manners. The hardest thing is that there aren’t enough opportunities to practice enough so that it “sticks”. We need to recruit some neighbors to help.

  9. Sandy Weinstein

    i have this problem when people come to the door. once my girls know the people, sniff them, they calm down. i definitely need to work on this with the 2 younger girls. my middle child is very protective. she does not like men so much. however, if they let her sniff them and they pet them, she is good. they are not used to company coming to the house much, my friends leave on the other side of town, so it is mainly strangers or workmen that come to the house. however, they do listen to me and will calm down after a few minutes. i have used the pet correector, the spray in the red can and they see the can and behave, stop barking and stop jumping.

  10. Great tips! We try to give our dogs something to do when they hear the doorbell/visitors. Although Linus has gotten pretty good at barking while doing puppy push ups (sit, down, sit, down)…time to give him some more advanced things to do during these situations.

  11. I love your blog. All the above is useful. When walking Rosy I’ll keep her on my side of the street until she’s settled enough to meet and greet the other walkers. If she doesn’t act inclined to settle I can walk on. She is more handelable at the door now, used to sitting before we go out. Thank you, Lindsey

  12. When Coco here’s the doorbell. She will run to the door to see who is there she will bark a couple of times to let Me know someone is by the door. This is one of her jobs as a service dog. I have low vision and moderate hearing loss. One thing we are working on is getting her to be a little more calm if it is someone she knows she gets overly excited if she knows the person by the door. What works for her is I tell her its ok and I let the Person in but if she doesn’t calm down right away I tell her to go to her room and she lays on her bed. I wait a couple of minutes for her to calm down than I call her to come out this works,when she does come out she greets the person in a nicer way. This also gives the person time to sit down without coco trying to jump on them with excitement. She just walks up to them to say hi and lays down

  13. 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.

  14. Caitlin Kunkel

    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!!

  15. 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!

  16. 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. 🙂

  17. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

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