6 Suggestions to Improve Your Dog's Behavior Around Guests
"Love me, love my dog," may be one of your personal mantras...
...but if your dog is rowdy it doesn't mean your guests have to put up with a poorly behaved dog. If your dog jumps on your guests, steals their food, sticks his nose in their drinks, barks throughout their visit, inserts himself into the conversation, or lifts his leg on a friend's purse (Yes, that has happened!) then your dog is rude. For your friends' comfort and your dog's sake, it's time to make some changes.
Refresh Your Dog's Training
If you and your dog have participated in an obedience training class, awesome. Put a leash on your dog, break out some training treats and refresh his training. Do some sits, downs, stays, watch me, and leave it. The obedience exercises help teach your dog self control and teach him what to expect when you ask him to work with you. Keep the training fun, while at the same time teaching your dog that these exercises are important.
If you and your dog haven't done any training, enroll in a training class so you can learn how to communicate with your dog and teach him. There are many different training styles and techniques so find a class that is comfortable for you. Ideally, in the class, you want to teach your dog what to do, how to do it, and then reward him for his cooperation.
A group class also provides an opportunity for your dog to learn how to ignore the distractions of the other people and dogs and focus on you. This will help when guests come to your home and your dog wants to ignore you and focus on the guests. At the class, let the instructor know that one of your goals is to help your dog behave himself when guests come to your home; knowing your goals allows her to help you with some specific training.
Ask Guests to Call Before Ringing the Doorbell
When you feel comfortable with your dog's obedience skills, invite a guest or two to your home. Let your guests know you're trying to teach your dog some better manners and ask one of your guests to call you before he rings the doorbell. When he calls, thank him and ask him to give you a couple minutes before ringing the bell.
Immediately leash your dog. This way when the doorbell rings your dog won't go charging to the door, barking furiously.
Sit for Praise and Petting
When the doorbell rings, with your dog on leash, walk your dog to the door, asking him to walk nicely without pulling, yanking, and lunging. Praise your dog when he's behaving himself. Let your guests in. If your dog is excited and bouncing around, ask them to completely ignore your dog as any attention from your guests serves as a reward for that rowdy behavior.
If your dog sits nicely, however, and waits for the guests to acknowledge him, then of course they can greet him and pet him.
Lie Down and Relax
Once your guests are in the house and initial greetings have been performed, and your dog sat nicely for petting, then let him wander around with your guests. As long as he remains calm and well behaved he can continue to mingle; however, if he gets excited and gets pushy and rude, then put the leash back on him and have him lie down close to you and tell him to stay. Ask your guests to ignore him when he's in a down stay.
If your guests' visit is short, your dog can remain in the down stay for the rest of the visit. If they are going to be in your home for an hour or more, release your dog from the down stay but keep the leash on him and keep him close to you. Again, if he's calm and polite your guests can greet him.
"Please Don't Feed Me!"
One of the primary reasons why a dog begins to steal food from guests is because the guests feed him. Your dog will begin to expect that guests equal extra food and treats and will help himself if the food isn't immediately forthcoming. So make it clear to your guests, all your guests, that you're trying to teach your dog better manners and they are not to feed him.
If your guests can't stop slipping him bits of food then keep your dog on leash and close to you. Interrupt any attempts to slip him food. If your dog tries to help himself, use the leave it exercise you taught him.
A friend of mine went so far as to tell her guests that her dog, a Cocker mix, might end up at the veterinarian's clinic if they fed him and if he did, she would send them the vet's bill. She might have exaggerated a little but not much; her dog has quite a few allergies and anything containing wheat causes him to scratch and itch.
If All Else Fails
If your dog is so exited he can't settle down or your guests are determined to sabotage your efforts to teach your dog better manners, just put your dog away in another part of the house. If he's crate trained, let him relax in his crate with a chew toy. Maybe he can nap in a back bedroom. If you have a safe place in the back yard, let him run back there.
Taking him away from the excitement doesn't teach him better manners, but it does interrupt his efforts to continue his bad behavior. It also stops those guests who want to encourage his antics. On another day, perhaps one cooperative friend can come over to your house and help you work with your dog.