How to prepare your dog for visitors
As a result of the lockdown, very few people knocked on our doors and even fewer entered our homes. The sound of the doorbell or a knock on the door can make some dogs feel excited or nervous. These feelings could be heightened for pups that are used to having you and the home to themselves.
As restrictions ease, this is likely to start happening more often. So, before you start welcoming visitors, you should prepare your dog and teach them to feel calm.
Teach your dog not to react to a knock on the door
Feelings of excitement or anxiety can start the moment there is a knock on the door. This is why you need to teach them to be calm when they hear this noise. Firstly, you should get them used to the sounds in a positive way.
- Quietly knock on a hard surface and see how your dog responds.
- If your dog barks or rushes to the door, then make the knock quieter. The aim is for your dog to stay calm when they hear the noise.
- Gradually increase the volume and frequency. Do this until your dog is ignoring reasonably loud knocks.
- Then, repeat the process with the noise of a doorbell. You could try using a doorbell sound on your phone.
Once you and your pooch have mastered this stage, try knocking on your actual door.
- Ask someone to go outside (while you stay with your dog), approach and knock on the front door once.
- Again, see how your dog responds, and give them a treat if they are calm.
- You could offer your pup an enjoyable activity such as a food-releasing toy or snuffle mat. This will encourage them to settle and remain calm for longer periods.
- While they are enjoying their treat, your helper should knock very quietly to begin with.
- Gradually increase the number and volume of the knocks.
- Then, repeat the process with your doorbell (if you have one).
- The noise will eventually become meaningless to your pooch as it isn’t resulting in anyone coming in.
Top Tip: Put a sign on your front door asking people not to knock or ring the doorbell while you are doing the training. Otherwise, this may get confusing for your pooch and could slow down their progress. At first, you want them to learn that a knock doesn’t result in anything else happening. This is why you don’t want people turning up unexpectedly and disrupting the training.
Encourage your dog to go to their bed when there is a knock at the door
Your pooch is used to the sound of knocking or the doorbell ringing. Now you can teach them to go to their bed so they can settle there while visitors enter your home.
- Make sure your dog has a comfy bed of their own, ideally in a room that visitors won’t go into.
- Start by encouraging your dog to go to their bed by throwing some treats on it. Once your dog has the hang of this, you can introduce a cue.
- Say the word “bed” and point to it, then reward your dog once they get there. Repeat this - gradually increasing the distance between you and your dog’s bed.
- Slowly increase the amount of time your dog stays on their bed by rewarding them there. Then, take a step back and reward them there again. Remember that training should always be positive. We want our dogs to see their bed as a really great and safe place to be.
- If at any point your dog is struggling, go back a step and progress more slowly.
- Once your dog is reliably going to their bed on your cue, you can introduce the doorbell or knock.
- Ask someone to knock on your front door or ring the doorbell. Then give your cue and once your dog is in their bed, reward them with a treat.
- Spend a session (around 10 minutes) repeating this.
- Over time, your dog should start running to their bed by themselves when they hear the knock or doorbell.
You’ve taught your pooch to go to their bed and wait when there is a knock at the door or the doorbell rings. Now you can start to give them a long-lasting treat and close the door for a short period of time. Repeat this several times. Then, you should be able to bring the guests into your home while your pooch is devouring their treat in bed.
Top Tip: If you want to ask your dog to come off the bed, you can say “OK” or “off”, so you keep things very clear.
Introduce your dog to real guests
Your dog now knows that a knock on the door means they go to their bed. So, when your visitor arrives, as above, leave your pooch there with a long-lasting treat and close the door.
You can now invite your guests in and let them settle down. Your dog should be calm so, if your visitors are happy to meet them, you can bring your pooch in.
They know how to respond to the arrival of guests. This should mean they are relaxed after real visitors knock or ring the doorbell, for the first time.
Top Tip: Keep a long-lasting treat close by. That way, you can follow the same routine with visitors that you aren’t expecting, as well as with the ones that you are.
Stop your dog jumping up at visitors
Is your dog jumping up at your visitors? Then you need to ensure you train them to greet guests calmly and quietly. Most dogs jump up to get our attention and keep doing it because it usually works. So, instead:
- Reward them for keeping all four paws on the floor.
- If they do jump up, don’t react but stay calm, quiet and wait for them to stop, then reward them when all four paws are on the floor. Make sure everyone in your household is consistent.
- Ensure your visitors do the same – it’s a good idea to mention it before they come round.
- Don’t tell your dog off for jumping up because this might confuse or worry them. Remember, being told to “get down” is still a form of attention that some dogs may find rewarding.
Avoid your dog barking at visitors
Perhaps your dog barks at visitors? This could be due to excitement, but could also be a sign that they feel anxious about their arrival. The key to reducing and even preventing barking is to understand why your dog is barking in the first place.
Learn what your dog hopes to gain from barking. Then you can show them that they can get what they want by behaving in a calmer, quieter way. You may also be able to make changes to your dog’s living space, so they no longer feel the need to bark.
Prevent an overexcited puppy from mouthing visitors
If you have an over excited puppy mouthing your visitors, then you need to teach them what they can and cannot chew. You can do this by providing your puppy with a range of suitable toys and chews to play with. Then, make sure you always keep one handy. When you recognise that your puppy is getting ready to play, you’ll be able to give them the toy in good time.
If your puppy puts their teeth on you or your visitors, stop what you’re doing and stay still. If they continue, turn away and cross your arms, or move away and return once your puppy is calm again.
Ask your visitors to avoid any rough and tumble wrestling games that involve biting. There’s a risk your puppy will expect to play like this whenever they want and with whoever they want.
You can restrict your puppy’s access around your home using child gates or a playpen. But, always make sure they have fun and safe things to chew in their zone.
Take that note off the door - you now have a routine for you and your pooch to follow every time visitors arrive.
Your dog is now prepared for visitors. But, what about meeting people when you are out and about? Find out how to prepare them for days out. Then they’ll l earn to be calm and relaxed with people outside of the house as well as in it.
Is your dog finding it difficult to have visitors to the home? Perhaps you find it difficult to manage your dog’s behaviour during this time? If so, an accredited behaviourist will be able to help you.