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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 2:54 pm | Fair 71º


Inquisitive Canine: Dog Takes Door Greetings Too Far

A simple training plan can ensure guests feel welcome at your home

Dear Joan:

My dog is an adorable 2-year-old Shih Tzu named Reggie. He has been trained to a degree; however, we haven’t been able to train him to behave when someone comes in the front door. He is so excited that he actually pushes people back out the door. It is very embarrassing and, of course, we have to consider those who are afraid of dogs to begin with.

I know how to train a dog to sit and have done so using positive reinforcement and treats. But I can’t seem to get him to calm down at the front door. I always hoped he would outgrow it, but it seems to be getting worse. Can you help?

— Michelle Murphy

Dear Michelle:

Wow, talk about a great welcome wagon! It sounds as if Reggie loves having company over, and that you have done well with teaching him basic manners. As a certified dog trainer, I can offer a few simple steps that will help make answering the front door less embarrassing for you and more fun for Reggie.

Since Reggie has already acquired some canine good manners (thanks to your savvy dog guardian skills), it may just be a matter of calling upon them where and when you need them. Using basic behaviors to help manage your dog in real-world scenarios can be very effective in solving challenges you and your dog encounter in your daily life. For more practical ideas for using dog training to help develop real-world canine manners, check out the Out of the Box Dog Training Game.

With the holidays approaching, you may be expecting company more than usual. This will be the perfect opportunity to have friends and family help with your training plan. I know having one more thing on your plate can be a bit overwhelming, especially during the busy holidays, so I’m going to suggest some very simple, easy-to-replicate dog training steps, similar to what I teach in my canine manners classes.

The overall goal behavior will be for Reggie to go and sit on a mat or his bed when the doorbell rings. Sounds good, yes? The chain would look something like this:

The doorbell rings, and you ask Reggie to “Go to your place.” Reggie goes to his mat (or bed), and he performs his sit or down-stay while you go and open the door. His reward is he gets to greet the visitors. He goes to them or they come to him.

You’ll want to break each segment down to make it simple for Reggie to learn, setting him (and you) up for success. One option would be the following:

» Teach Reggie a sit-stay (or down-stay) on his mat, near the front door, with zero distractions, door closed, no one coming to the door. Reward him with treats and praise for performing the behavior.

» Add in opening the door while Reggie stays on his mat. You’ll definitely want to continue to reward him with treats, petting and praise.

» Next, add a knock or doorbell, while you reward Reggie for staying.

» Finally, add someone coming over for a visit. You can have the person visiting also reward him with food treats and saying hello, but only if he stays on his mat.

» Once Reggie has become proficient at answering the door politely, you can begin to fade out the food treats and use only petting, praise and saying hello to visitors as his reward.

» Note: if you don’t know who is at the door, and you want Reggie to bark and carry on, then don’t give him the cue to go to his mat. That way he’ll learn to discriminate when to mind his manners and when to kick into “home security” mode. For more on dogs and how they discriminate, click here to check out the post on my dog training and behavior blog.

By continuing your positive reinforcement training in situations where these behaviors really come in handy is a great way to keep Reggie motivated. Plus, you’ll most likely end up being proud of your dog (as opposed to being “embarrassed”), and your company will enjoy coming to your door and seeing all of you.

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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