Does your dog pass the guest test?

By Ann King, Certified Dog Obedience Trainer & EDDOG Board Member

As dog lovers we tend to be extremely tolerant of what some might perceive as “unmannerly” behavior by our dogs. After all, we’re used to our Bulldog’s habit of smooshing his face (and sometimes-drooly mouth) up against our leg to say “welcome home”. We don’t mind when our Yorkie jumps into our lap as we settle on the couch. And when our exuberant Golden thrusts her nose “south of the border” (wink wink), we understand that she’s just reacquainting herself with us after a long day.

While these normal dog behaviors might be no big deal on a regular day, imagine a gathering in your home for a special occasion (not to stress you out, but the holidays are coming) and suddenly your dog is embarrassing you all over the place. 

What to do? Your dog is part of your family. Banishing him for special occasions seems cruel. And if your dog isn’t used to being confined or away from the family, you might need to crank up that festive music to cover up the soundtrack being provided by your barking or howling pup. Ugh.

But don’t worry! There’s still time for you and your dog to learn some basic training that will make your special occasion a lot more enjoyable for everyone, including your dog.

First, identify the “high-value” areas of your home; the places where your dog finds lots of excitement and generally gets lots of attention. Usually this is the front door, the family room, and the kitchen.

If your dog has some obedience under her belt, put a bed or mat in these areas and have your dog down/stay. Practice when there are no distractions (like guests coming and going) and work up to more stimulating circumstances, like when the kids come storming through, the doorbell rings, or a familiar neighbor pops in.

If a consistent down/stay is not part of your dog’s repertoire (welcome to most of the dog-owning world), then start practicing ignoring your dog in these high-value areas.

For example, when you come in the front door, ignore your dog and just go about your business. Instruct kids and neighbors to do the same. This means no talking, no touching, and especially no eye contact. Even if you have to let your dog out for pottying, make this a no-fuss activity without talking or creating any excitement for your dog.

You’ll likely find that your dog will try to get your attention, but will eventually turn away and go find something else to do. Dogs that are accustomed to being the center of attention when you first come home will take longer to give up, but hang in there! Your dog is learning to respect your personal space. And don’t for a second believe his “feelings” are being “hurt”. A dog’s interpretation of being ignored is different than that of a human’s: dog’s read your ignoring them as a sign of leadership – you’re asking for personal space, something that’s hugely important to canines.

During this time of expanding your personal-space bubble, work on teaching your dog to go to his bed – one in each of the high-value areas is ideal – and stay. If his beds are where all the good stuff happens (attention, treats, chew toys) he’ll be happy to comply.

Teaching your dog manners – from your guests’ point of view – takes time, patience, consistency, and a little know-how. But just think how proud you’ll be of your dog (and yourself!) when you can confidently host your guests and share memory-making occasions with your furry best friend.

Don’t have time, patience or know-how? Don’t worry! Contact EDDOG Board member and Certified Dog Obedience Trainer Ann King for help: info@CompliantK9.com, 916-221-8833.

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