When Guests Visit, by Martin Deeley
Ever loaned a favorite tool or item to a friend and when they return it, it’s ruined? Hate to say it, but friends can also ruin the training you do with your pup. Guests can overwhelm a pup, 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 when they are not there.
Your guests can create problems without realizing. 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.” Yup, this is going to be a 50-pound plus dog in six months, mum lives with you and she is unsteady on her feet; you don’t want him jumping up. Or they will tell you “It’s OK we love dogs he is only a puppy”. Then they proceed to get him over excited and dashing 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 their behavior is teaching your dog this dashing around your home is OK! 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, and put pup in his crate or on a leash while they are there and he cannot learn to be naughty.
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 their nervousness, which they cannot help, they can create unwanted behaviors because the pup will recognize the body language and smell their fear. Your pup’s reaction to those who are afraid may be to also to 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. And usually it is the pup that looses out. 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 will often 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 pup; however once more there is a potential problem. 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. Attempting to control him in this situation can once more create unwanted behaviors and he can easily learn that he can get away with them when guests are present. Also, you will not be behaving as you normally would, maybe even becoming frustrated and a little annoyed. Your dog will definitely recognize these emotions and will be uncertain how to act. Usually he will offer a behavior which although natural you may not want. Submissiveness is not unusual even to the extent of urination and that will annoy you even more. In these situations we can all become inconsistent and guess what – this will create confusion in your pups mind and a downward spiral of unwanted behaviors by all, occurs. So get to know your dog and be able to read his emotions so you can act and react accordingly.
Play safe with your pup when guests come around to visit. Maintain control and help him to learn patience and remain calm. A leash and a crate are great tools to use. Or you can teach him a place he stays on until invited to the ‘party’. Pup needs to understand that guests come to visit you, and he is there to be greeted when he is invited. Train your guests also not to make him the highlight as they arrive but basically to ignore him. As Cesar recites – No look, No touch, No talk when they first come into your home. Otherwise he will be rewarded for his excitement, jumping and general rude greetings.
If he is a dog that cannot help himself and becomes over excited even if you put him on the leash; have him in the crate when people arrive, or better still before they come, and wait for him to calm down before allowing him out. When you do take him out, slip him on a leash and teach him to greet guests politely with a sit. Only when your dog has learned calmness and good behavior with visitors should guests be allowed to touch and smile at him, and the touch when allowed should be slow and gentle. This pet should not be on top of the head as this blocks his vision and with the whiskers can be quite annoying. Better to rub gently under the chin, which done gently can lift his head up and give eye contact. Smile! The touch should also be for only a few seconds to start with. A gentle “Hello” with the hand and then taken away. Any naughtiness, such as an attempt to jump up or mouth, should result in guests removing their hands and eyes immediately from the dog. In this way they will give no reward at all for the behavior. You will be able to build up the amount of time a guest can interact with your dog but initially keep it short, a few seconds only. And, only when the dog is offering good behaviors. If he begins to do unwanted behaviors or try to manipulate, even if amusing, take hands away and all attention. Guide him into a sit calmly and assertively, without any anger showing him what is acceptable. No Talk, No touch, No Look. Only when your dog learns to remain calm and well behaved can you reward him by allowing the interaction.
Don’t wait until guests do come to do this training. Do some role-playing taking him to the door on a leash, where you have a ‘Place’ such as a piece of carpet or a bed for him to sit on. Sit him on this place and then open door as though someone has arrived and while doing this ensure that he stays on his place. Open the door slowly at first and always keep an eye on your dog, closing it and putting him back on his place should he move. When he is doing this nicely, ring the doorbell and ensure he stays on his place. Once he understands this, have a member of the family go outside without him knowing and ring the bell. Now we have the next step, the whole acting role-playing exercise. If he moves from the place, close the door on your family ‘actor’ and put him back where he was sat. Repeatedly go through this until you are beginning to achieve in small steps what you are wanting; a dog that remains calm and on his place until you, as the leader, invite him off. When you ask him to do this, use the leash to guide and teach him what is required. Role-playing is a great way to teach your dog and can be a lot of fun as the Guest Actor can play different roles, even imitating actual guests. Initially ask your ‘actor’ to be quiet and calm, but then, as your dog learns, to be a guest who is a little more exuberant and one who gives you hugs. In this way you can prepare your dog for eventualities. Practice this meeting of people also in the neighborhood by role-playing out in the street, meeting and greeting friends as well as those who you wish to talk to. Ask your friends to help you train your dog – you are working on the advice of Cesar Millan and his friends.
Even when you have been through these training sessions and have a well-behaved dog that has learned the art of greeting guests, you need to ensure these habits are maintained, otherwise your dog can regress, and once more learn he can disobey when a ‘guest’ is present. A dog that greets welcome guests nicely and is a delight around the home when friends and guests are present is a dog you’ll be proud of and guests will admire. Their smiles and appreciation are his reward and will help him become even better. It will make you smile too – and your dog will not miss those smiles!