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Teaching Your Dog to Behave Around Guests

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A small dog lies on its back and plays with a tennis ball on a grey rug in a living room while three people look on

Claudia Bensimoun author of Teaching your Dog to Behave Around Guests

You’re waiting for visitors-but is your dog going to behave? All dogs enjoy saying hello! Your dog may bark, leap up on your guests and greet with a big sloppy kiss! He may also possibly growl and respond to your guests with a snarl.

Understanding your dog’s mindset will help ensure that your furry best friend is well-behaved when around guests. In this article, we’ll discuss how to teach your dog top etiquette tips.

No leaping up on guests

According to renowned positive trainer Victoria Stilwell via Claudia Bensimoun,Animal Wellness Magazine, “A goal is to make yourself, your guests and your environment ‘boring’,” saysStilwell.“If the dog feels it’s no big deal when someone new comes through the door and sits on his favorite couch, or when there are a lot of people around the dining room table, he won’t feel a need to respond.”

The key to a dog that behaves well with guests is to plan ahead, she adds. “Work well in advance on your dog’s greeting behavior, and get him used to seeing new people in the house.”

Stilwell goes on to add that “Most dogs jump on people through sheer excitement and because it is an effective means of getting attention, but some jump because they feel uneasy when someone new comes into the home, and jumping is an effective way to cope with that discomfort." She continues, "the best way to stop your dog from jumping up is to ignore her while she’s doing it.”

Here are some positive dog training steps that Stillwell recommends:

  1. Each time your dog jumps up at you, turn your back.
  2. Do not look at, talk to, or touch your dog at any time. Fold your arms in front of you so that you become boring.
  3. When he stops jumping, wait for three seconds of four paws on the floor, then reward the self-control with your attention.
  4. If he jumps again, repeats the exercise.
  5. Practice this with friends and family members for consistency.

Giving your dog lots of space

The key to dogs behaving well with all guests is to know what your dog may do ahead of time. When you understand his mindset, then you’ll be able to prevent him from jumping up to greet guests or from doing something else that is inappropriate like growling or biting.

“In situations like this, it’s best to give everyone their personal space, and not force interactions," says Dr. Nick Dodman of the Animal Behavior Department at Cummings School of Veterinary Sciencesto Animal Wellness Magazine. Stillwell elaborates further, noting “to avoid an unpleasant situation, if you have visitors who are scared of dogs, the kindest and safest thing to do for all concerned is to put your dog in another room or contain him safely behind a baby gate."

Is it the dog that’s scared? Aggressive or shy dogs need to be put in another room away from holiday guests,” says Dr. Dodman. "Keep in mind that a stressed or reactive canine is much more likely to bite someone than a dog who loves being around people."

Sold out

How about if you’re the guest?

There’s nothing worse than being the target of a reactive dog when visiting someone’s home. You’ll find small dogs may feel more vulnerable because of their size.

"Small dogs feel especially vulnerable because of their size, and feel the need to defend themselves from people who loom over them as they bend down to say hello, notes Stillwell. "If you have a reactive dog of any size, use safe management techniques to avoid any issues. If you can’t contain your dog, tell your guests not to pay him any attention when they first come in. If the dog continues to be fearful, tell visitors to ignore him for the duration of their stay," she continues. "This takes the pressure off everyone and gives them much-needed space.”

Begging at the table

If you’re the proud pet parent to a dog that always begs at the dinner table, it’s best not to feed your dog tidbits to eliminate this behavior. This is a common complaint from dog parents and one that is difficult to end. But yet, we all tend to reinforce this behavior because it’s hard not to do so. In this case, Stilwell advises via Animal Wellness Magazine, "The best way to prevent begging is to never feed your dogs from the dinner table. If you have a dog prone to doing this, get in his way." She continues, "Block his path with your body and say “back” while waving him off, but do not physically move him or yell at him. Blocking is how dogs control space with other dogs; by doing this yourself, you’re clearly communicating to him that you want your space while at the dining table."

“If you need to move your dog into another room, you will not be reinforcing bad behavior,” adds Stillwell. “You will instead be moving him from temptation, and setting him up for success by not giving him the ability to practice the begging behavior.”

Etiquette expert Dianne Gottsman recommends that it’s very important to respect your guests, noting “If you have a group of friends who are excited about bringing their dogs to a holiday party, by all means, enjoy the season with your dog. However, if you’re hosting a party for a mixed group of people, some perhaps with allergies, it would be best to throw a separate party for them, and maybe host another for your fellow dog parents, who you know will be open to animals being around,” (Animal Wellness, volume 15, issue 6, page 24.)

Teaching your furry best friend good manners around guests takes time, and should begin during puppyhood. “Petiquette” needs to be taught early on while your pup is young. If you reinforce good behavior from day one, you won’t have a problem later on when your family and friends arrive for the holidays!

Keep in mind that is always helps to have plenty of new dog toys around in your dog’s own personal space to keep him occupied.

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Meet The Author 

Claudia Bensimoun author of Teaching your Dog to Behave Around Guests

Claudia Bensimoun

Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance journalist and author, and specializes in veterinary content, and eBooks. She's a long-time feature writer for Animal Wellness magazine, Fido Friendly magazine, and the United States Dog Agility Association. In addition, Bensimoun has written for numerous pet websites, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Her interests include wildlife conservation, animal welfare, disaster/humanitarian relief, veterinary research, and veganism.

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