Invaders! - Creating Calm Introductions with your Primitive Dog

The holidays are a time of gathering with friends and loved ones. For your primitive dog, some guests may be more loved than others. Having guests over takes careful planning and many times preemptive training to have the peaceful gathering you are hoping for.

To ensure safe and warm welcomes on arrival day, take time out of your busy planning to do plenty of pre-arrival training. If your dog has been getting lots of practice barking, screaming, jumping up, or is highly fearful, start months in advance and take it slow. The key to transforming your primitive dog into the official household greeter is to address all of the emotional components of guest arrival.

The doorbell (or a knock at the door) is the first cue that someone has arrived. The sound surges adrenaline through your dog’s body creating an explosively emotional reaction. It can be excitement, or aggression, but regardless, we cannot ask our dogs to behave when they are that emotional. Brains don’t work that way. To solves this problem we have to take the excitement out of the doorbell. 

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Begin by yourself or friends and family ringing it and then walking away. Allow your dog to bark. When they stop reward them with food for silence and attention. Repeat. Your smart dog will quickly learn that there is likely nothing there, so nothing to get worked up about, and that they faster they are quiet, they are rewarded. 

On the rare occasion when the doorbell does mean a person, controlled greetings are essential for overly enthusiastic greeters, or door bolters. Have your dog on a leash, behind a gate, in a crate or in some way controlled away from the door. Allow your guest the chance to get in the door and close it behind them. Give yourself enough time to setup up a proper greeting with your dog. Setting up for success is essential.

Once your guest is inside, observe your dog. If they are jumping at the end of the leash or against the barrier, or vocalizing, do not start yelling commands. Just like with the doorbell, they are too emotional to listen. Instead approach your dog or shorten the leash so that you are about a foot away from them. In a moment of silence, stick a food treat in their mouth. If they turn their attention to you, start reinforcing attention, and cue other obedience behaviors. If they can’t keep their eyes on you, repeat feeding for looking with silence. 

Be patient!

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Once your dog is calm and attentive, on leash, allow your dog to approach your guest but stop your dog just in front of them. Have your guest pet your dog. After about 3-5 seconds, call your dog back to you. When they get to you, give them treats and praise. Repeat lengthening the time the dog can interact with the person. DO NOT let your guest feed your dog from their hand. Back your dog up if they attempt to jump on your guest. If your dog is done and wants to leave, allow them.

If your dog shows fear or avoidance around guests, make sure they have an escape route to a safe spot in the house and always allow them access. If they are resting or sleeping, make sure that your guests, especially children, are kept away from them. That may require you to crate your dog if guests can’t follow your instructions. Do not force your dog to accept petting or greetings from a guest. Instead allow your dog to just watch them. If your dog has bitten guests, keep your dog in another part of the house, in a crate, or board them during times when guests will be in your home.

The key to a calm greeter is practice whenever you can. If you don’t get guests often, find people to help you practice. You dog can’t learn if you don’t create avenues for understanding and success. Be patient. If you can’t make the time to train when a guest comes over, crate or gate your dog in another part of your house, or have them stay at daycare or boarding. Don’t skimp on training because it’s not convenient. Learning doesn’t come with a schedule of convenience so plan ahead. 

Share in the group how your guest training goes. We’d love to hear from you!