FREE SPEECH ZONE | Dog Manners 101: Holiday Helper

My dog, Jasmine, likes to give our guests a High 5.

One of the most common dilemnas that dog owners face is how to train a dog to greet guests to their home in an orderly fashion.  This is especially true around the holidays.   Instead of trying to get out of hosting festivities at your home, wouldn't it be nice if your pooch was the envy of the family?  Your dog just may surprise you at their manners by adding in a few steps next time your door bell rings.

We have been sharing our dwellings with dogs for at least 15,000 years.  It is no wonder your dog barks and runs to the door when someone new enters.  Protecting the home is the basic job description of your domesticated dog. This skill has been reinforced from generation to generation.  

The best way to refine the door greeting, is to work with your dog when there are no guests to keep the excitement to a minimum.  The first step is to teach your dog to sit and stay on a preferred location.  Choose a spot that is far enough from the door that he will be out of the way so you can sign for packages and greet your guests in peace.  Place a dog bed or rug at the location.  The dog should be able to see the door; remember that is his job to make sure people entering are safe.

Practice being able to place your dog at his spot.  My own dog goes to her bed with the command, "Park It".  Good things happen at her special place.  Use a sealed container for treats that is in a convenient location near the door.  When you come back from the door each time, give your dog a treat in a calm, genuinely appreciative manner.  If you can take down the excitement with the door, your dog's excitement will be reduced, too.  We all think Ed McMahon is waiting outside with a check form the Publisher's Sweepstakes.  Slow down with the routine of opening the door and even going to the door.  Add in opening the door with your dog at their location.  Trust your dog will stay on their place.  Set your dog up for success.  Make sure you can do this many times and add in the door bell when you have this perfected.

With your dog in a seated position, your guests should be able to arrive and enter without the usual chaos.  Tell your guests you are training your dog and ask them to not be too excited, also.  Eventually, your guests can give your dog the treat or you may add in shake or High 5 for your guests.  Pretty soon, your dog will learn how nice it is to be appreciated by you when they are doing their natural role in the house.

The final picture is this:  The door bell rings and your dog barks.  Tell him, "Thank you, (dog's name).  That'll do.  Park It.  They go to their dog bed, you answer the door.  Upon completion, you get a small biscuit from the treat jar by the door, walk over to his bed and hand it to him gently as you tell him what a good boy and how proud you are of him.  Stroke his ear in appreciation.

I have taught this to hundreds of dog owners.  Each one is surprised at how well their dog responds to being thanked for doing their job which used to be a frustrating experience for both.  Your dog will become more confidant when they know how much they are appreciated.  Having a clear picture of what you want your dog to do when the door bell rings is an important aspect of this exercise.  Transforming a frustrating activity to a new skill is the best way for you and your dog to form a deeper bond and continue to live in harmony.


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    Lisa Sellman's picture
    Lisa Sellman

    Lisa Sellman (Lisa [at] thegooddog [dot] info) has combined her interests in positive dog training and canine massage to develop a gentle, positive and effective approach to dog training.