“What is that? Someone or something is at the front door!” thinks your dog, as Sampson runs to the front of your house in anticipation of greeting the unknown guest.
The high energy that your dog has at the front door is very natural. The front door is the entrance of your den. If your dog feels like the door is secure, the pack can relax.
The Benefits of Door Manners
- A Calmer House – The stress that occurs when someone comes into the house is not the only time that a riot at the front door happens. The stress of anyone coming to the front door causes a dread on the part of the pack leaders, whether they are visiting or delivering pizza.
- A Calm Dog – If your dog does not have to worry about the entrance to the den, your dog can relax, which will result in a lower energy level throughout the pack.
- People Will Enjoy Visiting – Even the people who profess to like all dogs will appreciate not having their Sunday best jumped on for the first 15 minutes of their visit.
The Reason for the Chaos at the Door
- Your Dog is a Den Animal – The den is the last refuge of safety, shelter, and security to your dog. Whenever someone comes to the entrance of your cave, your dog is instinctively suspicious since they sense an intrusion into that safe zone. It does not matter that your dog wants to eat or greet, the underlying instinct is the same.
- Your Dog is Waiting for Instructions – Nine out of ten times, when we work with clients at the front door, we see the dog go to the front door barking, and then turn, look at their pack leader for instructions, then go back to the behavior if no instruction is given. The key is to allow your dog go to the door initially and then give instructions as to what the dog should do next.
- Human Nervousness or Anxiety at the Door – Your dog cannot differentiate between you being anxious because of the guest or because of your dog. Your dog will pick up pack leader nervousness as an indication that the guest is a threat or that your dog needs to be in charge.
The Outcome of Having Your Dog Behave at the Front Door
When you are in charge at the front door you will see:
- A Different Dog – When you give your dog clear expectations and instructions on how to behave, your dog’s energy level will go down.
- Calm People – People will actually be able to come into you home without getting mauled.
Remember that when you and your guests are nervous, it reinforces your dog’s instinct to protect the entrance to the den.
What it Should Look Like
For most of our dog training consults, the front door is one of two on the list of things to fix. The process we teach at the front door is:
- When the doorbell sounds or someone knocks on the door, the pack leader allows the dog to accompany the pack leader to the door.
- The pack leader looks to see who it is in the usual way.
- If there is someone there that the pack leader is not sure of, the dog stays at the front door.
- If there is someone at the front door who is to enter, the pack leader tells the person to wait.
- The dog is brought to an area away from the door and told to stay.
- The pack leader goes back to the door, looking peripherally at the dog. Do not look at your dog directly since this will encourage your dog to the door.
- The guest is brought in and escorted into the house at the pack leader’s back.
- If your dog comes forward, the guest is told to stay at the front door while the dog is put back into the original spot.
- Once the guest is fully into your home, your dog is released to greet the guest.
- If your dog jumps on the guest, take your dog off the guest by the collar, put your back to the guest, and walk your dog away until he relaxes. Go back to your guest. Repeat as needed.
- If your dog does not stop acting rudely to your guest, put your dog in a crate or outside.
The Training Process
Be patient and consistent with your dog. You are educating him.
Training for door manners should be done when:
- You are not anticipating any guests
- You can get someone to practice entering the house
- When you are in a good frame of mind to do the dog training
- When your dog has been taken on a pack walk to get a lower energy level
- There is a minimization of distractions in the house
Getting your dog to listen and trust you when someone enters your home is the single most important
thing you can do to improve guest visits and contribute to a balanced mindset in your dog.
Stay calm and assertive!