My dogs have made a serious amount of progress in the last year, but they still don’t know how to act when visitors drop by, especially since each guest has his or her own personality. The dogs get very excited when visitors stop by-as though everyone is here to see them. Without intervention, they will continue to whine for hours. Through constant assertion and repetition, the boxer and pit bull are slowly learning to respect our company.
Step 1: Prepare the Guest
My husband and I let our guests know that we have large dogs. Some people aren’t comfortable with dogs. If that is the case, we make sure the dogs have food, water, exercise and time to go outside before company comes over. We then crate the dogs in our bedroom when the guests are here. We strive to make our guests feel comfortable.
Some guests love large dogs. If that is the case, the dogs are allowed to stay gated in the kitchen until they are in the appropriate state to receive a greeting or affection.
Step 2: The Door
When guests arrive and knock on the door, the dogs bark. We permit this behavior because we like strangers to know that there are dogs in the house. However, the signal for the dogs to stop barking is a hand in the air and the verbal expression “it’s okay.” This lets the dogs know that we are allowing someone into our space and they should not consider the guests a threat.
Step 3: Interaction
Guest and dog interaction is the most difficult part of the process because each person acts differently. Sometimes our Boxer will behave well all day or on a leash, but will leap to nip at a guest or go right into play mode. This type of greeting is unacceptable. To receive affection, both dogs must sit patiently behind the gate.
Most guests want to say hello to our pets right away, but we have to let them know about our rules to make the visit a better experience for everyone.
Step 4: Praise and Affection
Guests who are comfortable with dogs (and who don’t mind getting some dog hair on their clothes) may interact further with our dogs. Since dogs are food motivated, we provide our guests with treats for them and explain the rules for giving the dogs treats. (They must sit and take treats very gently from the hand.)
If our friends are comfortable walking the dogs, we invite them along for short walks. Sharing activities makes an instant bond between guests and dogs.
Step 5: The Guest’s Place
Guests do not usually want to seem overbearing in another person’s home, but if our guests are comfortable, we allow them to work with the dogs to ensure the pets are in a calm and submissive state. When my friend Jason visited, he did this frequently, constantly reminding the Boxer that he was in charge and that he did not appreciate being jumped on.
Sometimes it seems that all of our training and hard work means nothing when visitors arrive. The dogs act as though they have lost all understanding of rules and get very excitable. Each and every time a guest visits, it takes time to reinforce the rules. I apologize to the guest and take a moment to work with the dogs. Their progress is slow but present.