"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Dogs Jump and Go Wild When Someone Comes to the Door

– Posted in: Aggression, Behavior Problems, Columns

By Lilly M (Own work) via Wikimedia CommonsDear John,

We have two dogs one a Golden Retriever and the other a Bassett Hound. Whenever guests come to the door or they hear the doorbell they go nuts jumping all over them. We have taken to hooking them up with a leash at a distance back from the door to at least allow our guests to get in the door and do not unhook them until they calm down. I have also tried working with a friend to come in several times in a row in order to allow practice gaining space at the door. It’s not working.

I am becoming a dog yeller versa a dog whisperer. That upsets my wife and she has less control over them than I do.  All suggestions gratefully accepted. – Bob

Dear Bob,

You’re not alone. We’ve all visited friends where before we got 2 steps in the door we’re wearing their dog or dogs like a fur coat so tightly wrapped that even a team of PETA fanatics couldn’t peal it from our bodies.

There are usually two factors to consider. First there has to be a foundation relationship where the dogs see you as the teacher and second you have to break this sort of training exercise down into smaller bites.

Without a foundation it’s hard to get a dog to take you seriously at anytime let alone when there’s fresh meat arriving at the door. It’s not that it can’t be done but it’s on par with trying to get a kid to focus on new math at the gates of Disney World particularly when your personal track record at getting homework done correctly and on time in a less stimulating environment is less then stellar.

I’d suggest first teaching the dogs to go to a mat whenever you are in the kitchen and to a similar place near the door whenever you are taking them out and after they return from an outing even if it’s only to relieve themselves. They need dress rehearsals.

If they get wound at the mere sound of the doorbell, invest in a wireless system with the buttons strategically placed in the house. Pavlov conditioned dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. Yours are conditioned for an adrenalin rush at the sound of the bell. Now you’re going to condition them to go to a mat.

They also need to learn how to keep “four on the floor” at all times and that’s best done by leaving their leashes on them when you’re together and setting them up. I don’t wait for them to jump. Every television commercial can be used to do things they might see as an excuse to jump. After a week or two, when no one in the family can get them to jump no matter how silly they behave then I get friends to try, just as you have recently (but I think prematurely.)

As mentioned, this is a common problem and the above is part of the program I recommend. I really suggest that anyone with this sort of issue contact a balanced trainer for an in home appointment. I doubt it would take more then an investment of a couple of hours and the trainer will be able to advise in a way tailored to the personalities of your dogs and the handling abilities of everyone in your home. A balanced trainer will be able to help you lay that foundation I mentioned earlier. They’ll also be able to show you how to say “No!” in a way that the dogs connect with their unwanted behaviour and not you or your guests and without meeting you and your dogs I can’t be specific on how to fairly send that critical message to your dogs.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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