Ask the Trainer: Controlling your dog when visitors arrive
The doorbell is a common trigger for unwanted behavior such as barking or uncontrollable excitement in the home. When guests arrive and your dog gets overly excited, stress levels rise and some visitors may even feel frightened. Controlling your dog when visitors arrive is critical in maintaining good house manners.
If your dog gets overly excited when the doorbell rings or visitors arrive, the first thing to do is to put the dog on a leash. Having your dog on leash prior to the trigger will help keep the excitement level to a minimum. Leash corrections may be needed to control unwanted behavior.
The steps to control unwanted behavior at the door include:
- Maintain a loose leash throughout the exercise.
- Stay calm as a handler so your energy level can help calm the dog.
- Use obedience such as sit or sit-stay when guests arrive.
- If a leash correction is needed, remember to release the pressure from the collar after the correction.
- Practice, practice, practice! Practicing good control in all different environments will yield a well-behaved dog.
- Practicing the obedience recall “Come” command can also be beneficial, as many times the doorbell rings unexpectedly and the excitement begins before the door is open.
- When practicing control, remember to start with small distractions. An example would be to have a friend or family member knock on the door, or have them act as a pedestrian seeking to get your dog’s attention while out walking.
- When introducing your dog to guests, it is very important to allow them to pet only when the dog is calm. If your dog starts to get excited, put it back into a sit-stay and give it time to calm down. By only allowing petting after calming, you will reinforce that good things will happen when it can stay calm.
Depending on your dog’s current behavior pattern, teaching your dog to stay calm may go quickly or you may need to work on behavior for a few weeks. The more consistent you are as a handler, the better the dog will learn.