If you have the kind of dog that wrings every inch of joy out of every minute of the day, I would bet that when you have guests over, they really turn it up to 11.
Even the most die-hard dog lovers are less than thrilled to be run over by a friend’s excitable dog when arriving at their home. It’s even worse for the dog’s guardian, who is usually desperately apologising and attempting to call or restrain their dog. Fortunately, you can train your dog to stay calm when visitors arrive. We’ve outlined the process for you here.
In the short-term, the quickest solution is some kind of barrier or gate that will separate your dog from the front door. This won’t replace training, but it will make life easier while you’re working on this behaviour.
Note: for smaller dogs or dogs unlikely to jump, a freestanding, folding gate is a flexible option. For other dogs, you will want to invest in a sturdier option that attaches to the wall.
If a gate doesn’t work in your space, put your dog on their lead before guests arrive, and keep them close to you. Read on for the training steps!
1. Stay calm
When mum or dad yells, commands and/or gets physical with their dog when a guest arrives, it makes their pup think “YES! You’re in on the party! Let’s go crazy!”
It’s a challenge for an excited dog to recognise the difference between frustration and joy when their parent is intensely vocalising and interacting with them.
To keep a dog calm around guests, the first order of business is to stay calm yourself.
Ultra-friendly dogs will find the arrival of a guest to be the ultimate reward. Attempting to restrain your dog or to use cues that have not been bomb-proofed in distracting situations is like trying to swim upstream.
Scolding your dog for their behaviour around guests won’t get you very far—remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. In other words, if your dog is rewarded for the two things you want—politely greeting your guest and staying calm while they are over—then everyone, dog included, will be happier. Get more info on positive reinforcement training here.
2. Work on the greeting
Open the door slowly for your guest and ask them not to acknowledge your dog. You may want to have your pup on a lead prior to their arrival.
- If your dog is too excited, then immediately, calmly inform her that hyper dogs don’t get to say hello by saying “Too bad!”
- Quickly but gently take your dog by the lead and place her in the closest room, closing the door behind her as she enters.
- Wait for 30 seconds (no longer), and then release the hound. If she immediately goes back to jumping all over guest, repeat the “Too bad!”
- Repeat this time-out sequence until she is able to exit the room calmly.
Now that your dog is calm, they get the wonderful reward of saying hello to your guest!
3. Staying calm after the greeting
Your best defence for long-term relaxation from your dog is establishing a portable, comfortable place that your dog associates with wonderful things. This can be simply a dog bed, rug, or towel.
Start this work at less exciting times. Feed your dog on the bed and give them puzzle toys or chews here. If they get up and take the item elsewhere, gently return it (and them) to the bed.
With a little work, you’ll have a mobile location where your dog wants to be calm. Why? Because it pays.
Pay your dog for good, calm behaviour on their bed while your guest is present, first by moving their mobile calm spot near to you. Give them a long lasting goodie to keep them occupied. Here’s some great options.
Stuffed KONG puzzle toy
A KONG filled with extra-special, high-value treats like chicken or peanut butter is a great long-lasting option. Freeze first for an even longer lasting delicious distraction.
High-value long-lasting chew
A high-value chewy such as a marrow bone will give your dog something yummy to focus on.
Treat-and-Train remote feeder
An electronic training feeder such as the Treat and Train lets you reward your dog remotely for relaxing on their bed. These devices can also be used to shape your dog’s “stay” in a sit or down position when a guest arrives.
Once the initial thrill of the arrival is over, most dogs can go back to being their regular selves without overwhelming your guests.
These tips won’t create a change overnight, but with practice, your dog will learn that being calm around guests is far more rewarding than hyperactivity.
If it’s your turn to visit friends or family and you can’t for whatever reason take your little munchkin with you, you can always find a loving dog sitter on Rover.com. who’ll be happy to keep them company.
Featured image: Jorge Elias/Flickr