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Good Guest Manners

27/06/2023 - General

Teaching your dog good manners when a guest arrives:

It can be really embarrassing when you’re having guests over to your home and they get bombarded by your over-excited dog but don’t worry, this is something you can get under control. This behaviour will most likely have begun when your dog was a tiny little bundle of fun (or new to your home if you’ve offered a rescue a forever home). You would’ve been thrilled every time you got home to your new edition and made a big fuss of asking how their day was etc. However, as your relationship grows, so does your dog (in size), it becomes less practical to have them jumping all over you with an over exuberant greeting. So, we have to go back a step and start again with teaching manners around the door and guests.
Firstly, if you always greet your dog when you return home, stop doing this! You can acknowledge them when they are in a calm and desirable state. Below are some tips for when you get home:
If you have a loose dog when your guest arrive
If you do not crate your dog and they are free to come and bounce all over you when you come in, you must completely ignore them. If you have shopping bags that need to be bought in without a wet nose checking out the contents of each bag, then enter without the bags to begin with until your dog is out of the way so you can make a clear path to the kitchen.
When you enter do not even give your dog eye contact, as this in itself is a reward for your dog (you’re giving them attention) and that is all they want in life - your love and attention. Keep your eyes up and, if necessary, keep your hands up as well so they cannot lick and play nibble at your fingers. I would recommend having some strategic treat pots in easily accessible (to you and not your dog!) places, so that as soon as your dog has begun to settle, you can casually drop a treat behind you without making too much of a fuss. You need to be able to stay cool and calm and not add any more energy to the situation. Your dog will slowly learn that they will be rewarded in a settled state and will not be rewarded for being a crazy canine, demanding your attention because you left them alone.
If you have a crated dog when your guest arrives
If you have your dog crated, then your dog will not be able to charge at you as soon as you get home. However, they still need to show calm behaviour before they are let out. Again, have some treats to hand in a strategic place and, as your dog settles into a desirable state, then you can reward with a treat dropped into the back of the crate. I say the back of the crate as you want more value there, so as not to encourage your dog to charge out of the crate door. If you have a dog/puppy that really needs to be let into the garden as soon as you get in. Very casually, without any fuss open the crate door (ideally with your dog sitting, so something else you can work on) then either pop their lead on and take them to the garden quietly or let them out, again avoiding any sort of excitement reinforcement (like your voice and eye contact). Just get them out into the garden in a no nonsense sort of way. If they come back in from the garden all excited, then you can pop them back in the crate with a treat at the back and wait for them to calm down and settle before you let them out. If they are digging and getting frustrated at the door as they want to get out to you, you will need to keep an eye on this behaviour and only reward when they are sitting nicely - you can also do some “crate games” to help with crate behaviours.
These exercises are just a starting point for you begin to change your habits when you come home, but this will be the start of teaching your dog how to behave when someone, no matter who, comes into the house. The same will begin to apply when you invite guest into your home.
Exercises for when you have guests to your home
Explain to your guest that the dog is in training and they must stick to your rules, otherwise your guest will unintentionally undo all of your hard work. If you guest cannot or will not abide by your rules, then maybe go to their house for a coffee -remember it only takes one person to undo your hard work.
Guest rules
Ideally start with your dog on their lead until they’re calm enough to be let off the lead.
Ignore the dog completely, no eye contact, no verbal communication, no hand licking etc.
If the dog persists in trying to get your guests attention they should turn away with their arms across their chest.
If the dog jumps on a lap uninvited then gently remove them and put their lead on calmly.
Reward the good behaviour immediately, the treat can be dropped on the floor from the guest or owner, ideally behind the person whose attention the dog wants.
Your guest must do as you have done and ignore your dog completely until they are in a calm state. You can provide a treat pot for your guest, if they are wise in the world of dogs, so they can drop a treat for your dog when they have settled. If your guest is not keen on handling any slimy hot dog or old roast dinner, then you will need to step in to ensure that your dog is rewarded properly for a job well done.
If your dog is completely over the top and will not remotely begin to settle, you may need to try the following:
- Putting your dog on their lead and having them nearer to you.
- Putting your dog on their lead and securing them to the chair/nearby sturdy furniture so you’re able to drink your beverage without it spilling everywhere.
- Putting your dog in another room entirely, until the initial excitement has died down, with a filled treat toy to keep them busy.
- Remember to keep an eye on your dog, as soon as they settle you must drop a treat at their feet, but again without too much fuss as we don’t want them to perk up again.
Exercises and ideas to work on
You can start teaching “settle” immediately. You can use the dog’s bed, if it’s easy to move and get on, or just a blanket. Start by sitting down with the bed/blanket in front of you, as your dog places a paw on this blanket you can reward with a treat. Encourage your dog off the blanket and as they return to you and put a paw on the blanket then reward again. Do this as much and as often as you can, even when watching the TV in the evening. Your dog will eventually put two paws on the blanket, then all four if it’s big enough. You then want to encourage a ‘sit’ and then a ‘down’ on the blanket. What we’re doing is making this their high reward zone, as they progress you can move the blanket a little to your side, then further to the side etc. so that the blanket is beside you on the chair (or even further away if you desire, so long as you can get a treat to them on the blanket).
Start teaching “door manners”. You can practice this every-time your dog is going through the front/back door or even an internal doorway. Ask them to ‘sit’ before they can go through, you can reward them by throwing a treat behind them so that as the reward comes behind them, they become less inclined to rush forwards at the door. You can progress this so that when you’re expecting a guest, you can pop their “settle” blanket somewhere away from, but still in sight of, the door. They will need to learn that the door will not be opened until they’re sitting on their blanket. This will teach your dog that there is more value being away from the door, as rewards land behind them.
If you have a guest before your dog is confident in their “settle” and “door manners” you can keep your dog on their lead, which will stop them from being able to lunge and jump up at your guest. If you have more than one dog, then you may need to introduce one dog at a time. If one dog is being left in another room, give them a filled Kong or something to keep them occupied so they’re not being left out. Remember to keep your dog with you and make sure you have some super yummy treats so that you are much more interesting than the guest. Your guest will need to ignore your dog until they have settled. Keep your dog with you and remember to reward all calm and desirable behaviour. Once your dog begins to calm, you could try dropping their lead. If they dash to your guest, you can easily get hold of the lead again and bring them back to you.
If you have a dog savvy guest, arm them with a pot of treats and they can reward the dog for calm and desirable behaviour - such as sitting or lying down. If you dog brings a toy etc to your guest, they are not to take them and engage in the dog’s game. Your guest can have a game with your dog later, but they must instigate the game, not the dog.
Prepare a frozen Kong to keep your dog busy while you and your guest go about your business, but again ensure your dog is calm before getting this, as you don’t want to reward them with this amazing treat if they’ve been jumping around like a kangaroo.

Only allow your dog free run around your guest when they are calm. If they do not calm down, then don’t let them run riot. You can pop them in another room with a suitable toy etc. if they are finding the situation too challenging and cannot calm down. Your dog will need to learn that they are not to jump all over people, but they will be rewarded with attention from you and your guest when they can behave in a calm manner.