Does this sound all too familiar: “My dog is way too excited when the doorbell rings and answering the door creates a huge jumping dog problem. He doesn’t follow commands and seems to have a mind of his own when it comes to greeting our guests. Because he won’t pay attention to me, I find myself just yelling at him and telling him to do the same thing over and over again. It’s just not working.”
I certainly get my fair share of complaints about jumping dog problems from owners with adolescent and adult dogs that are way out of control and for many different reasons.
The one thing they all have in common is that rules and boundaries have never been set for their dogs, nor have they been consistently reinforced, especially at the front door.
The one common thing all these owners need is a sensible, constructive solution to jumping when answering the door. What many often perceive as a bad jumping dog problem is actuality just normal dog behavior. It’s just that what’s normal for your dog is not normal or acceptable for you.
Trainers studying the science of animal behavior on how dogs learn would recommend teaching your dog a behavior that is incompatible with jumping, like a sit. If your dog can hold a good sit around your house guest then he can’t jump.
However, there are a good many daily repetitions to be done around many, many house guests on leash over a 4-6 week period before trying him off leash around your guests.
And if you are like most folks, finding the time and then getting different people to come over frequently so that you can train your dog to a good sit while ignoring those guests well, that’s another story.
Since there are a couple of ways to solve a jumping dog problem, this is probably an opportune time to leave you with another solution to the age old problem of dogs jumping on house guests. Let’s get started.
What you will need
Any solution to a dog problem will always involve being prepared and doing set ups to work on your dog problem. With this solution you’ll need the following:
• A 6’ leash
• A flat buckle collar on your dog
• A medium size stuffed Kong (preferably with Lamb Loaf and if you don’t know about Lamb Loaf, we have to talk)
• Some high value dog treats and,
• A calm resolve in knowing this will work.
The leash. The leash is critical to being successful using this solution. It needs to be in a place that is immediately accessible to you when the doorbell rings. You need not worry about putting it on your dog until you are at the front door. Just get in on your dog before you open the door.
The Collar. Your dog should have on a flat buckle collar. If he is really out of control, then I’d suggest have him wear a Gentle Leader or Head Halti. No choke chains or pinch collars are needed here. We don’t want to cause harm inadvertently or have your dog make the wrong association with the doorbell or house guest.
The Kong Toy. What you stuff in the Kong is the key. Lamb loaf works wonders. It should be waiting for your use in your seating area where you will visit with your guest.
High value food treats. Here again, Lamb Loaf is really a high value food treat and will be used at the front door.
A calm resolve. Your dog can read your emotional energy. If you are calm and resolved, your dog’s tendency will tend to be more towards calm. Pair that with the solution and you’ve got teamwork.
As I’ve said before, any solution to a dog problem will always involve being prepared and doing set ups to work on your dog problem. If you don’t have the time to call people over every day to practice your dog’s good door manners, then you are left with managing your dog the best you can. This will mean that your original goal of off-leash discipline will take much longer.
Meanwhile, do the following to manage your dog at door greetings and while visiting with your guest:
1. Planning and being prepared for the unexpected house guest so that you have a near perfect and seamless process for greeting and visiting is your goal. That means your dog should have his collar on while you are home. Your leash, treats and stuffed Kong should all be where you can gain quick access.
2. When the doorbell rings, grab your leash and treats and meet your dog at the front door as he will most likely beat you there. The Kong toy should be placed within easy reach as you “follow” your visitor to the family room.
3. As you meet your dog at the front door, tell your visitor, “Just a minute!” as you put your leash on your dog.
4. Next, crack the door about 2” and greet your visitor and let him know what you are going to do. “Hi Bob! I’m going to sit my dog and when I give you the signal, come on in and have a seat in the family room.”
5. Your greeting is complete but what is your dog doing all this time? Simply let him sniff through the 2” crack in the door to see who is here. Now that your greeting is complete, step back and sit your dog out of your house guest’s pathway to the family room. Step on the leash if necessary to control jumping. Using a food treat helps to keep your dog focused.
6. Once your guest has passed, follow him to the family room to visit picking up the Kong Toy along the way. Your dog will notice.
7. Sit down across from your guest, put your foot on the leash and say “Settle!” one time only. If your foot is on the leash close enough to the dog, he will settle and lay down shortly.
8. Deploy your Kong Toy to your dog and enjoy your visit.
At this point two scenarios usually play out. The first is that your dog will stay on the Kong Toy for the duration of the visit. Your guest thinks you have a well trained dog.
Second, your dog will loose interest in the Kong Toy and want to “say hi” to your guest. He should be allowed to do that as long as he doesn’t jump. So give him enough leash to go over and sniff, then bring him back over to you.
Now you have two options. Settle your dog down with your foot on leash (Kong optional but recommended) or crate/gate your dog if you have to entertain or talk business.
The more you practice this solution, the more your dog will “get it.” Dog training takes time and repetition. There’s no getting around that. But if you run short of time and the sacrificial visitors for your set ups, managing your dog on leash using this solution will get you a lot of mileage.
If you have never required your dog to settle down by your foot on leash (setting boundaries) you should practice dog training on your own without visitors so that your dog “gets it” and performs flawlessly on leash with the occasional guest.
Use your dog’s kibble to praise/click and treat train when you practice in the evenings watching television or reading. Instead of getting all of his food in his bowl for dinner, maybe he gets half of it one kibble at a time for settling by your feet.
When visitors come over the value of the reward goes over the top with Lamb Loaf for doing the same job!
Consistency and repetition breed habit in dogs. Remember, they do what works for them. Make laying by your feet a good place to be. It will work for you and your dog.
Eventually you won’t need the leash but that will depend on how much you practice with your dog. You do have a lifetime with your dog but wouldn’t you rather get it done sooner? Practice makes perfect!
Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you. Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know how this article impacted you and the way you think about training. Are you looking at it a little differently?
Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.