Taming the Rude Greeter

posted May 21st, 2016 by
  • Share
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Taming the Rude Greeter – Training 911

by Nancy Haddock

Imagine quietly relaxing on your sofa, enjoying a favorite TV program, when suddenly your peaceful evening is interrupted by a knock at the front door. Chaotic barking shatters the calm as Fido explodes into four alarm style while spinning and jumping as he prepares to spring onto your house guest with all the enthusiastic welcome four paws and a cold, wet nose can muster.

If this sounds familiar, do you long for a different scenario where your well-behaved pooch calmly and politely greets your house guests? 

Let us compare the above behavior with the sport of agility. Agility is a high-intensity sport in which dogs run through an obstacle course with adrenaline pumping through their veins. The dogs require an enormous amount of self control in the presence of heightened excitement. This is very similar to the heightened excitement many dogs experience when a visitor comes to the front door. You can use some of the same training techniques we use in agility training to teach your family pet to politely greet guests. 

Before we start, your dog must know how to sit on command. If you dog is inclined to bolt out the front door if it’s open, I suggest you start with a door to the backyard. 

Step One: 

Let’s begin by teaching the dog to sit while a door is opened and wait patiently for permission to go through that door. Position the dog two to four feet from the door. With the door closed, ask your dog to sit, and then reach for the door handle. If the dog moves, simply remove your hand from the door. Do not tell him “no” or “stay;” just simply remove your hand from the door knob. Wait until the dog is sitting still again and reach  for the door handle. If the dog moves, remove your hand from the door handle. If the dog holds still, start to open the door. As soon as he moves, shut the door. Continue repeating  this process until the dog remains seated      as you hold the handle. During this period, I absolutely say nothing to the dog, except “sit.” Most dogs catch on very quickly. If he sits still, I will reach for the handle and open the door, and if he moves, I shut the door in front of his face. 

Each time the dog remains sitting, open the door farther and farther, but always be prepared to shut it quickly as soon as he moves. When you can open the door to a width the dog can walk through, yet he shows self control by sitting politely, reward him by saying “OK” to verbally release him   to go out.  Next, call the dog back into the house and reward him with treats and           an enthusiastic round of petting and praise. Then, shut the door, ask your dog to sit and repeat the training process from the beginning.

This simple process presents the dog with stimulus (the door) and presence of a reward (going out the door). The dog must figure out which behavior earns him a reward. We have limited his behavior choices to simply either move forward or hold still. The dog should quickly conclude sitting politely still is what causes you to give him his reward of opening the door and allowing him to go outside. 

Step TWO: 

When your dog will sit still despite the open door, and not move until you verbally release him to go, you are ready to add more stimulus, such as the sound of knocking. I also add a food reward during this stage since previously the reward was being released to go out. Now your dog will not be released to go out but will be required to sit still. 

Knock on the door, and as the dog starts barking, ask him to sit near the front door and wait for him to quit barking. Then, immediately give him a treat. Reach out for the door handle; if he moves, remind him to sit and reward him. Knock on the door again and reward him if he remains seated. This is the exact same process of choice and reward we used before, only we have increased stimulus with knocking and switched the reward to food instead of permission to go out. However, even though I have shifted the reward to treats, on approximately every fourth successful attempt, I will release the dog to go. Alternating the reward increases his self control.

Step THREE: 

When your dog can successfully sit politely without moving through the knocking and opening of the door phase of training, we will increase stimulus by adding another person into the exercise. Employ the help of a friend or family member. Provide your helper with dog treats, such as a handful of kibble.  Instruct your helper to approach the door from the outside and knock. Ask your dog to sit and repeat the whole process above until your dog can successfully sit politely while you open the door as the helper stands quietly on the other side of the open door.  

Step FOUR: 

Finally, when your dog will remain seated as you open the door, instruct your helper to enter the house and immediately drop multiple pieces of kibble on the floor as he walks in. As your dog has almost finished all the kibble, your guest should drop several more pieces. As the dog finishes the kibble, quickly ask him to sit and reward him multiple times with treats. 

Dropping the kibble cleverly succeeds in two outcomes: no jumping and a guest calmly entering the house. By dropping the kibble on the floor, you have cunningly manipulated your dog’s behavior from rudely greeting a guest, to calmly welcoming a visitor. 

If step four does not go quite as smoothly as I have outlined above, simply send your helper back out the door and start over, just like you have done in steps one, two and three. This is a process, and it is vitally important your dog is successful with each step before moving on to the next. Also, if you live in a multi-dog household, only train one dog at a time. Place the other dogs outside or confine them to another room, so they are not distracting to the working dog.

Learning response time will differ with each dog. Just follow the plan and expect results!

No Responses to “Taming the Rude Greeter”

Leave a Reply

To comment please verify you are human: *