During the holidays we often get more guests than other times of the year, which can cause a dilemma of what to do with our dogs, especially at the front door. While some of us have dogs that politely greet guests, others have overly excited or fearful dogs that can make having people over stressful. My dog Eli is extremely well behaved with guests. He doesn’t charge the door, bark or jump. He just wags his tail and waits patiently for some attention. My dog Jackson was the complete opposite. He charged the door with uncontrollable barking and stood on his hind legs and barked when people entered the front door. Not exactly the warm welcoming I wanted my guest to have when they came over.
So what can you do if you have a dog that jumps on your guests or acts like my boy, Jackson did?
- Most important – be consistent! Don’t encourage or reinforce jumping on you and expect the same behavior with your guests. Remember to ignore your dog when he/she jumps on you and immediately reward calm and appropriate behavior. Not being consistent is confusing and unfair to your dog.
- If you have time for some training, teach your dog to go to a mat and stay there until released. Also teach your dog to sit politely for greetings.
- If your dog is super friendly and jumps out of excitement, I recommend not letting your dog greet your guests at the door. Keep your dog behind a baby gate or in another room and don’t allow him/her to greet your guests until he/she has settled down.
- Ask your guest to keep greetings short and calm and to ignore your dog if he/she starts to jump (don’t look, talk or touch your dog at any time if he/she is jumping). As soon as your dog is calmly sitting, your guests can reward with attention and/or a treat. If your dog jumps up again, repeat.
- If your dog is like Jackson and is unsure around new people and jumps out of fear, put him/her in their crate or in a place where they feel safe. Once your guests are seated allow your dog to come out and greet your guests. Ask your guests to avoid direct eye contact and keep greetings low key. Giving treats, rather than petting can help shy dogs build trust and a positive association with new people.
- Don’t force your shy or fearful dog to meet your guests and be sure he/she has a quiet place to escape if they don’t want to be social.
- If your dog is aggressive in any way to strangers, do not let them greet your guests. Keep them confined in a place they feel safe.