Why bother with visitor training? We all want our dogs to be on their best behavior when guests arrive. Practicing now will pay off later. You and your dog will both know what to do, and your guests won’t get jumped on!

Decide the following first:

  1. Where will your dog be when guests knock or ring the doorbell? In her crate? In her confinement area? On leash? Often, dogs do better with greetings if they aren’t able to rush the door on arrival.
  2. How will you introduce your dog to guests? Ask for a sit? Keep her on leash? Keep her in the confinement area and introduce her once everyone is inside and settled? Bring your dog into the space on leash can help prevent them from running at or jumping on everyone.
  3. How will you reward your dog for greeting guests politely? Offer him a treat? Allow him to mingle freely?
  4. What behaviors does your dog know that might be helpful? Sit? Down? Stay? Go to bed? Think of things you can ask your dog to do instead of having them just focus on your guests.

If your dog is nervous about new people, start by rewarding her yourself simply for noticing the new person. If you can reward your dog for staying relatively calm, you can then have your guest toss treats to your pup. Avoid having your guests hand the treats to your dog directly, as this can overwhelm shy or nervous dogs.

Practice with Familiar People

Once you’re figured out your plan, practice with people who live with you or people your dog sees daily. Have someone ring the doorbell, and go through whatever plan you’ve decided on. For example, you could have your dog settle on their bed when the doorbell rings. If your dog is lying in bed, they can’t also be jumping on your guest.

Practice with Friends

Next, invite a friend over to practice your visitor routine. Start small. Just have one person come over at first. If that goes well, try two or three friends at a time.

After your guests leave, assess how the visit went. What did your dog do well? What needs extra practice? Is there anything you want to do differently next time? If your dog is struggling, how can you make the exercise easier? Maybe having the guests be very calm and mostly ignoring your dog. If your dog is doing well, what’s the next step in making the practice more difficult? Perhaps having your guests enter more enthusiastically.

Tip! If visitors are coming over and you didn’t have time to train, put your dog in his crate or confinement area with a long-lasting chew. Don’t give him the opportunity to practice bad habits.

Troubleshooting: If your dog is having trouble with your routine, be ready to reward more often or ask for something easier. If your dog is REALLY excited to greet people and you were asking for a sit-stay when the doorbell rings, ask for a quick sit and then release your dog to say hello.