It seems the holidays are already knocking at our door and soon we will have, literally, many relatives, guests and holiday visitors knocking too. There is no better time to start getting our rambunctious dogs under control at the front door. Far too often I see dogs and pups bark, climb, jump, scratch, nip, mouth (and in many cases growl and bite) at the door.
The main thing we must help our dogs understand is how to calm and get right into the action of smelling the guests. And, of course, the dogs can’t do that if they are put away or behind a gate, or held so far back that they never can smell the visitor. If you have a dangerous dog obviously proceed with caution and get help(call me) but if not remember a pup or dog has a biological need to smell a new person entering the home environment. Everything in the canine world is based on smelling. The dog or pup needs to learn to switch from an excitable habit of staring and constant movement near the entryway to actual thinking and investigating with their wonderful noses. This can only be done through great leadership from the owner.
Dog leadership is very easy to define. Dog leadership is also very easy to see. If you truly wish to see dog leadership all you need to do is go to any dog daycare or dog park and watch for the calm, firm yet social dog in attendance. You will soon discover that Alpha dog leadership is mostly like good human parenting. It is not what many people imagine as domineering and over-controlling but instead is calm, patient, firm and exceptionally fair about the canine social rules (Alpha dogs are excellent peace-keepers among the pack and many dog daycare owners love having them in their group to help with the rest of the dogs.) Fun fact: Scientists have studied and proven that canines make spectacular parents and are usually better at parenting than most primates!
So, with dog leadership in mind you will have to be very firm at first when teaching your dog about the doorway and then very calm right after. Remember, there are no bad or good dogs, there is only reaction and habit and energy excitement levels. As soon as the doorbell rings or you hear a knock and your dog starts speeding for the door…stay calm.
Next, move to the door in an assertive manner. No need to run but walk with purpose. Never open the door when a dog’s face is in front of your body and they are forcing their face in the crack of the door. This is when you must claim the doorway and back them up at least a foot or two (enough to give yourself some room to open the door and to not let them dominate/claim the door or guest). Picture a basketball player playing defense. The door is the hoop and you want to stop them from driving forward. The main goal here is trying to get the dog to stop doing the overexcited habit of barking nonstop or moving constantly, or jumping on the guest, etc.
You have to get your dog’s eye contact for a moment and they have to physically slow their movement way down (it’s best if they stop moving all together). Be comfortable using the leash inside as you practice this greeting. If you get eye contact then you can turn around and answer the door. Once you open the door be prepared for a rise in the dog’s energy and movement again and repeat the above procedure then let them go and get into smelling your visitors. Smelling is an excellent way for a dog to gather information and also calm down quicker. If you don’t get the eye contact or the calmness it means you need help and I’m a phone call away.
The holidays can be a ton of fun or they can be stressful…the choice is up to you. Good luck and may all your greetings be good ones.
About the Author
Garrett Stevens is owner of Alpha and Omega Dog Training
He excels in dog rehabilitation and is a specialist in canine energy and body language.
Tacoma based, Garrett trains, whispers, and rehabs dogs and pups while also working on his book and a series of dog training videos soon to be available to the public.