Training a dog to behave when guests visit
by Martin Deeley
Have you ever loaned a favorite tool or item to a friend and when they return it, it is ruined? I hate to say it, but friends can also ruin all the training you do with your pup. Guests can overwhelm a puppy, they can frighten him, teach him bad habits, and even more, in doing this they can turn your pup into a dog that annoys you, even after the guests leave.
Visitors can create problems without realizing it. Even friends who are “dog people” can create problems, so be aware. You will hear, “Oh, he is so cute, don’t worry we don’t mind him jumping up.” Yes, they may not mind now, but perhaps this is going to be a 50-pound plus dog in six months, mum lives with you and she is unsteady on her feet. So, we don’t want him jumping up.
Or a guest will tell you, “It’s okay, we love dogs – he is only a puppy.” Then they proceed to get him overexcited and he dashes around the house like a crazy man; throw rugs fly everywhere and the heirloom vase rocks on its pedestal. In all too short a time your dog will be more than a puppy and your guests are teaching him that this dashing around your home is acceptable behavior. In such instances, what do we do? Most of us smile in annoyed embarrassment because we want to tell them not to do this ... but they are guests.
Do yourself and your pup a favor. Tell them – nicely – that you are working on his manners and obedience, and if they don’t listen, put the pup in his crate or on a leash where he won’t learn to be naughty.
Be in control
Another scenario is the complete opposite. Your guests may not like dogs and could even be afraid of them. They prefer not to be greeted by your dog. By showing this nervousness they can create unwanted behaviors. The pup will recognize the body language and smell of those who are afraid and he may show fear, sometimes even giving a growl of uncertainty. Such behaviors can be made worse if we become annoyed with our guests, and frustrated with the pup. When this happens we are not in control either of the pup or ourselves, and that is when we make mistakes.
Even if we have a well-behaved pup and well-behaved guests we can create problems. When we have a nice pup and it has some cute behaviors, we try to demonstrate these to friends who come to visit. Naturally, we are proud of our new family member and want to show off a little. Socialization with new people is good for the puppy. However, once more there is a danger to keep in mind.
With friends present we want the pup to behave perfectly but the guests themselves are a big distraction. The pup may be overawed, nervous, excited, or cautious; in fact he may not behave at all like you thought he would. In this situation, attempting to control him can create additional unwanted behaviors.
Play safe with your pup when guests come around. Maintain control and help him to learn patience and remain calm. A leash and a crate are great tools to use. Puppies need to understand that guests come to visit you and he is there to be greeted when he is invited. Train your guests to not make him the highlight as they arrive but basically to ignore him. No look, no touch, no talk when they first come into your home. Otherwise he will be rewarded for his excitement, jumping, and generally rude greetings.
If he is a dog that cannot help himself even if you put him on the leash, keep him in a crate when people come over, or better still, before they come, wait for him to calm down before allowing him out to socialize. When you do take him out, slip him on a leash and teach him to greet guests politely with a sit.
When he has learned the art of greeting guests, ensure these habits are maintained otherwise your dog may regress and once more learn he can disobey when guests are present. A dog that greets welcome guests nicely and is a delight around the home when guests are present is a dog you will be proud of and your guests will admire. Their smiles and appreciation are his reward and will help him become even better.
Learn more about dog socialization with Cesar’s “Essentials of Dog Behavior: Socialization” DVD.
How does your dog behave when you have people over?