Do you know a dog that is a little “squirrely” when meeting guests? Maybe they like to jump or bark excessively. Possibly an assertive crotch sniffer?
Some dogs need some training on how to greet properly. This has a lot to do with Dog Types. The Betas and Alphas really like to greet guests first and before anyone else. Omegas just hang back and wait their turn. You will see this already in a litter of puppies. The higher ranking pups will come greet you first while the lower ranking pups will wait off to the side.
One of the most well known methods is Claiming the Space which is what Cesar uses. It works for a lot of dogs because the person is using their body language to say they want to greet the guest first and they expect the dogs to wait behind. We work with a lot of people who still have difficulties with claiming the space or it just may not seem to work for that dog or person.
The method in this article works especially well for dogs that may run out the front door or dogs with aggression problems.
Core Rules Applied:
1. A to B Rule: Start by teaching your dog to go to their greeting mat. Work your way toward the door and build up to knocking on the door, ringing the doorbell and having guests come in. You can also Super Proof by acting as a crazy guest, jumping up and down, talk in a high pitched voice, crawl on the floor to your dog, put masks on. If your dog thinks you are the craziest person they know everyone else seems really normal and easy to greet.
2. Energy Spectrum (Hyper vs Tired) -
3. Training Phase vs Management Phase -
Greeting is a part of Pack Structure and The Human Alpha’s of the house should be the ones to greet guests at the door first. Your dog will quickly learn how to greet guests by following these steps.
1. Ensure you are following Pack Structure 100%
2. Tether your dog away from the door and anchored from a low point so it makes it difficult for your dog to jump but easy to sit, stand or lay down whenever guests come over. Always use the cue “Greet” or something similar to your liking but keep it the same. Your dog doesn’t understand what you are saying at all so it makes no difference if you used that or made up a word. You will teach them what this means by always taking them over to their greeting place when a guest comes over right after you give the cue to do so. Soon your dog will begin to go over there on its own when given the cue.
Teach Greeting Spot Command:
You will want to have a spot to send your dog for greeting guests. It is best to have a mat (physical location) for your dog to go to. You will also want to be able to tie your dog up to that spot (3 foot leash is best for medium sized dogs. You want it just long enough so the dog can Sit, Stand or Lay Down all while the leash is loose. You don't want it too long otherwise they will start running from side to side or jumping at the leash). See video on "Place" for an idea of how to train your dog to go to their Greeting Mat.
1. Choose a command you will use such as "Greet", "Bed", "Mat", etc.
2. Lure your dog over to their mat and say your command (we will use Greet for this instance) "Greet".
3. Give them a kibble for going to their mat.
4. Say "Free" and toss a kibble away from the mat to release your dog.
5. Repeat several times.
6. Then take one step away (Increasing A to B Rule) from the mat and say "Greet". The dog will almost always stand between you and the mat (coming to your hand) because they do not fully understand it is the mat you want them to go to. Take a half step closer and say "Greet" again until they go to their mat.
7. Each time you try to increase distance you may need to walk a bit closer to the mat and say your command again.
8. Soon they will know to go to their Greeting mat when you are at the front door.
Here are some photos from the "Place" Video that show the progression:
The steps above you may practice 20 times or so.
The steps below you may practice multiple times at 1 -
Next you can see the dog is getting it right from a distance. Practice a few more times at this distance and then increase distance some more.
Next there are two types of dogs:
1. Those that love guests and want to greet them very excitedly.
2. Those that do not like guests and would like them to stay away.
The next steps will be tailored to each dog as they will be handled differently.
Dogs that Love People
These are the steps you will follow for dogs that really love people:
1. The easiest way is to ensure the dog is tired (if possible ahead of time) according to Core Rule: Energy Spectrum (Hyper vs Tired). The more tired the dog is the quicker they will settle down.
2. Have the dog tied up and have the guest come in and completely ignore the dog. The guest can come socialize with you for 10-
3. Keep the dog tethered and have the guest come over when they are ready to give the dog attention but ensure that all four paws are on the ground. It is ok for now if the dog is still very excited. You want to ensure the dog is not barking either. If the dog is barking ignore until they are quiet for even one second then start coming towards the dog. If they bark stop immediately and wait for another quiet second.
4. Next you will have the guest go and sit down and wait for the dog to calm down. When the dog calms down you can unhook the dog and bring them over on leash to greet the guest. Stand on the leash so you keep the dog away from the guest about 1-
5. When the guest is done giving attention you can command the dog to go to their bed in which you will tether them there so they cannot get up and come over to get attention as they please. If they are laying down calmly the guest can come over to give attention and pets.
6. As you practice this over a few days you will repeat the sequence but get more fussy as you go along and make the dog sit to get attention. If they pop out of sit then the attention stops, as soon as they sit again you can immediately resume giving them attention. Soon the dog will know that sitting is the only way to get attention and will understand the process in greeting guests.
7. You will continue to leash the dog up at the door for at least 1 month of proper behaviour (if not 2 or 3 months) which is sitting calmly and not pulling on the leash. Lets say it takes 7 days before your dog gets the idea of sitting calmly and on the 8th day your dog sits very nice and calm. This is the start of day one for Management Phase (Core Rule: Training Phase vs Management Phase) and you will continue to leash them up for another 1 month. This ensures that the habit sticks. If your dog pops up or gets excited on day 15 then that means you start back at day one again.
Do not use treats for the dog that loves people. Getting attention is already a big enough reward.
Dogs that Don’t Like Guests
These are the steps to follow for dogs that don’t like guests and bark or show signs of aggression towards guests coming up to them. Often aggression stems from fearfulness and they use aggression to keep scary guests away. The last thing you want to do is come up to a dog that is showing signs of fear or aggression. Here are the steps that you will follow:
1. Follow all rules of Pack Structure 100%
2. Tether your dog away from the door when a guest comes over and say “Greet” or something of that nature.
3. Allow the guest to come in and instruct them to completely ignore the dog with no eye contact, words or gestures.
4. Have your guest sit down and tell them to look like they own the place and continue to ignore the dog and have a conversation with you. This will help the dog to feel much more at ease as the guest appears to be an Alpha and has no interest in putting the dog in stress by coming towards them.
5. If the dog is only mildly fearful then you can have the dog come over on leash once the dog is calm and the guest is sitting. Have the guest continue to ignore the dog but stick a hand out for the dog to come up to and sniff. This can also be done with a favourite treat for the dog. Many fearful dogs learn to love guests in this approach to the point where they are excited to see guests come through the door the first time and the guests can eventually come up to the once fearful dogs and give a treat or a pet.
6. If the dog is likely to get more aggressive when greeting the guest and you are worried about a possible bite then keep the dog at their greeting place. When they calm down you can have the guest toss over the dog’s favourite treat from where the guest is sitting. Over days or weeks as the dog begins to show signs of happiness with guests you can have the guest toss a treat to the dog while they are getting closer and closer until they can eventually give the dog a treat from their hand.
7. If you are at all concerned about a bite then continue on the current step you are doing where the dog is happy and content and get your dog used to wearing a muzzle over a 7 day period in which they associate it with many positive things such as play time, food, toys, treats, games etc. This will ensure that your dog can’t cause any harm to your guest.
For fearful and dominant aggressive dogs you will most certainly have to follow Pack Structure 100% so they can see you are an excellent leader who will protect them. You need to associate good things with guests and most dogs will soon learn to love having guests over. Dogs that are mid to high level Alpha may never enjoy having guests over. They need to always be managed by putting them in another room or tying them off to the side. Some dogs may suck at letting your friends in without sending them to the emergency room but they would excel in a home invasion or robbery.
We have had clients where their dogs were so protective you couldn’t persuade me with a million dollars to break into their house. On the upside several of them have saved their families from armed robberies and home invasions. Criminals disabled the alarm, came back at night, large angry dog convinced them to keep on walking. Instead the neighbours got robbed at gun point.
The point being, there is a good chance that not all dogs can be trained to greet everyone nicely. Lots can make a complete turn around, some can get considerably better and a few we suspect are just so good at their job of being protective they can’t be swayed. Not a steak nor a fresh deer carcase will persuade some dogs from protecting their family.
We had a client that was a guard at a prison. He asked the inmates that did home robberies how they snuck passed the dogs. They said they would slip them peanut butter. But they said not all dogs would go for that. Some guys would have to go to emergency to get their groin, thigh or arm stitched back up before being hauled off to prison.
You know the people that come to your house and act really excited when greeting your dog? You think it would be a lot easier if the people just calmed down. Well there are ways to train around that and this is what we call Super Proofing which is a part of Core Rule: A to B Rule.
Tips to help train over and above what your dog would normally experience in real life makes real life seem really easy. This is what we often do to Super Proof a Dog:
Practice sending your dog to their Greeting spot (We use kibble to teach this.
Work your way to the front door in which you can say "Greet" and the dog goes back to their greeting spot.
We will then practice going outside, ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door and coming in and have the dog go greet.
Super Proof -
o Jump up and down.
o Talk in a high pitch excited voice.
o Get down on the floor and crawl over to the dog.
o Put masks on.
The idea is that if your dog sees you as the craziest people they know, everyone else will seem really normal and easy to greet.
It can be helpful to record your doorbell or a knock at the door or the sound of guests coming to your house. Play it back on your stereo at a quiet level while you work on Greeting Exercises. You can then turn it up louder and louder as the dog gets better. Often when you increase the volume the dog will make more mistakes. Go back to an easier version (closer to their greeting mat) and work your way up again. You can practice a lot of your greeting without having an actual guest come over all the time to help you practice.
One client we had said he installed a remote doorbell and put the button behind the couch. While watching TV he would ring the doorbell. The dog would get up and run to the door and see no one was there and then come back and be quiet. He did this over and over for weeks until the dog really didn’t care if someone was at the door or not.
Dog Was Cured
Another client we had said his dog used to be bad for barking at the doorbell and now the dog was good. We asked what he did. He said the dog went deaf and couldn’t hear the doorbell anymore, problem solved :)
Go to Greeting Mat with Doorbell
Some people will train their dog to go to the greeting mat when the doorbell rings. To do this process is quite simple, it just takes time and patience. Once the dog is going to their greeting mat with your verbal command (such as Greet) you can then ring the doorbell, say “greet” and send the dog to their mat. Repeat this over and over until the dog starts to understand when the doorbell rings they are to go to their mat.
To aid in the process you can ring the doorbell and wait a few seconds before giving the command to give your dog a chance to put the command together. You can also use the dog’s meal to practice this exercise.