How can I work on my dog’s excitability over people, both at my house and in public?

Welcome to today’s short form podcast where we answer your dog training questions. I’m your host Nicole Forto and with me today is our Lead Trainer, Michele Forto and today’s question is, how can I work on my dogs excitability over people? More specifically for someone who lives alone and has very few visitors, this person has hopes to introduce her dog to her new grandson and needs techniques on him being calm when meeting him and strangers. So the tough part of this is the details of this owners lifestyle, they aren’t having a lot of visitors and they live alone.

This means you are going to have to make time and put effort into getting out with your dog for them to not just greet people but to observe them calmly and learn that just because they see someone new doesn’t mean they get to visit with that person. This also means you must make an effort to practice having friends or family come over to your house to practice this training with your dog, the more often the better. Then as you transition out of continuous practice you still uphold the same standard even if you only have a visitor to your home once a month.

The rules and boundaries put in place when visitors come over must be kept at all opportunities especially if they are infrequent, this even goes for deliveries to your door whether that’s mail or a pizza.

These rules and boundaries need to be even stricter when a newborn baby or even any child under five is involved. Yes your dog may love your kids or grandkids but they have to understand the limitations around them because in your dog’s mind this tiny human is another dog. As you all know we take our questions as broad as we can, so this may not work perfectly for your situation but it also might be just the thing you are needing. With all of that being said lets dive into the scenario.

For starters you all know I’m going to say to grab a leash and put it on your dog, this is going to start your at home training with no practice visitors. The first step in this scenario is to work on your dog’s excitability over the front door, you need to create a solid routine and boundary line surrounding your door. This could mean bringing your dog to the door on leash and putting them on a sit stay six feet from the door and practicing opening the door, if your dog gets up you will immediately give a correction of no and shut the door, reset them onto their sit and try again, repeating the correction process with minimal touching and repeating of commands in between.

For example if you are resetting their sit, all you are doing is shutting the door telling them no, and saying sit one time with a leash correction added in if need be.

On the other side of this if you do not want your dog coming to the door with you and want them to wait in your living room or farther into your entry way this is where a place command comes into play. You will still utilize a leash here, I recommend one that gives you the option to have it attached to your dog and clipped to something else. You want to ensure you either have a partner to hold the leash by your dog’s place spot or you have an option of tethering them to the wall or a heavy piece of furniture. The same basic concept applies and you will tell your dog place and stay if you need to, then go to your door if at any moment your dog gets up you are to return reset them and then head to the door. If you are utilizing a partner in this they are not to give the dog commands, they are there to be the tether point. It’s very important especially if you are the single owner of the dog to not have someone else do any of the correcting or commanding. This process will need repeated frequently and daily for the new habit to really start to stick. As you observe your dog having more and more success you will start to introduce mock visitors to practice with, meaning you will plan and schedule a friend or family member to come over and who is willing to spend a half hour practicing approaching your door knocking or ringing your doorbell and coming in.

At this step you should coach your visitor to not speak too or look at your dog when they enter your home, they should greet you first and only when you are ready then can they greet your dog. They also should not encourage your dog to jump or paw them, this is a moment you must advocate for your dog.

Yes you are training but why allow someone to overstep the boundaries you’ve put in place just because it’s a dog.  Michele how do you coach clients on how to guide their friends and family around their dogs boundaries?  The other side to this step is teaching your dog a visit command, visit is the invitation to say hello and receive pets calmly. This can look like them remaining strictly on a sit stay or them standing and wiggling but keeping all four paws on the ground. This is your boundary and what you would prefer so this is where you set your own guidelines. The important key in this step however is to ensure that if your dog gets overly pushy, paws at, or jumps on your guest they immediately stop petting them, you give them a correction and reset them to their sit or place command.

This is where you are truly starting to break your dog’s habit of over excitability when greeting new people, they have to continue this routine strictly with the same rules for any and all visitors you have. Your dog does not receive the attention they want with out of control behavior, they get what they want when they are in a calm controlled state.

Outside of your house this practice should be similar, when on walks or outings to public places your dog should observe people but look back to you for direction, when they do this naturally be sure you are heavily praising it and adding a command like “good look, Max” and then offer a treat or lots of good pets. However the heavy praise only happens when Max leaves the distraction of a person and comes back to you, this may be immediate but it also may be after your dog pulls at the end of the leash, hops up and down in the air, or even barks and whines.

If it’s to this extreme of a reaction a correction word should be put into place such as leave it. So in the scenario you are walking Max down the sidewalk and a person is about to pass you on the sidewalk, if there is room move yourself and Max a few steps off the sidewalk, ask for a sit and stay, let Max observe the person but the moment they break their sit, or put tension on the leash you give a stern no and leave it, ask for Max to look and the second he does even if it was very quick give that heavy praise. In some cases you made need to turn and walk away or create a larger amount of space but if you are at this practicing point we have hopes that you’ve worked on this so much in the home that although it’s challenging your dog is able to work through it with the same commands utilized in a more distracting environment.

As with anything in dog training this takes time and practice, you can’t go from days of strict boundaries to crossing paths with a friend who over steps your direction and pets your dog anyway. The same rules and the same process goes for everyone, whether it’s your best friend, grandma, or a stranger on the street. As you’ve continued your practice and feel more confident with your dog’s new routine and habit when seeing and greeting people, it’s time to really up the distraction level of practice, this is the time to go into dog friendly stores and do some training and walking around but also sit back near the entrance for your dog to see all the people pass and remain calm and under control while doing so.

Your practice should also include exposure to kids and babies if you have access. Your dog should still be on a leash especially with a newborn baby that way you can keep complete control at all times especially in the first handful of visits. It’s important that your dog performs sit and down stays around the baby. Your dog is only allowed minimal smelling opportunities and is not on the ground at the same time as the baby. Even if your dog is the sweetest dog in the world, accidents happen and something as simple as the baby having tummy time on the ground and the dog accidently steps on the babies fingers, this can cause an uproar or injury. With any greeting with new people no matter the age or size the basic routine you have set must remain consistent and enforced, there can’t be moments where you get overly relaxed as those are the exact moments your dog will look for opportunities to take advantage and do what best suits them. before we close this episode out Michele do you have any other tips or advice when it comes to a dogs excitability over people and babies?

There you have it guys the process to work on your dogs excitability over seeing any and all kinds of people. For Dog Works Radio I’m Nicole and we will catch you guys in the next episode.


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