Training an Excited Dog to Greet New People and Dogs Calmly

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: July 27, 2017

Charlie is a three-year-old Chihuahua mix who lives in Omaha. His guardians set up a dog behavior training session to stop dog reactivity, stop jumping up on people, and stop pulling on the leash.

When I sat down with Charlie’s guardians I observed that Charlie demanded a lot of attention through nudging his guardians with this nose and standing on their laps. Charlie probably did this because he didn’t have any rules in place, so I suggested some new rules:

  • No furniture for a minimum of 30 days, or until the behavioral issues have been resolved
    • Then furniture only with an invitation and for good behavior
  • Sitting at the door before going inside and outside
  • Waiting at the top or bottom of the stairs for the humans to go first before getting permission to go on the stairs

I taught Charlie’s guardians some of our techniques for adding structure to his life which will help stop him from demanding attention. When we pet our dogs, we are reinforcing their behavior; so if they pet Charlie when he is demanding attention they are reinforcing that behavior. A dog training tip is to only pet Charlie when he is calm and well behaved, which we call Petting with a Purpose.

One of the main dog behavior problems the guardians had was Charlie’s door manners. They wanted him to stop jumping up on guests and learn to give them space when they came into the home.

To help this dog behavior problem I taught the guardians how to claim the door using the Escalating Consequences. This will help Charlie gain self control when greeting new people in the home.

To see how we accomplished this you can watch the video below.

As you can see in the video Charlie became apprehensive about this exercise and hid under the end table. I attempted to coax him out with a treat, but he wasn’t motivated by that. If a dog gets this anxious leave them alone. In retrospect I should have probably continued on with the exercise instead of trying to lure him out. Moving to the door would have brought him out from his hiding place to investigate who is at the door. The goal of this exercise is to have the dog stay about 10 feet away from the door behind an invisible boundary to help them stay calm. Later, once he felt comfortable coming out from under the table, I moved him behind the boundary that we set for him, ending the exercise on a positive note, without furthering Charlie’s nervous behavior.

Another dog behavior problem the guardians had was Charlie’s anxiety in the kennel. When I arrived his crate was in the living room in a high traffic area. Dogs often feel more secure in smaller spaces, so I decided to move his kennel upstairs to the guardian’s office. Since the only time Charlie was in his crate was when his guardians left the house, the kennel represented his family’s absence. Moving his crate to the office, will¬† give Charlie more practice to stay in his crate in a calm state of mind with the door opened while his guardian worked, making a positive association with his kennel. To see how to crate train Charlie you can watch our founder, David’s video by clicking on this link.

Now that we have re-positioned his kennel to the upstairs office, Charlie will be going up and down the stairs several times a day. This gives us a great opportunity to train Charlie on how to wait on the stairs.

Whoever goes up or down the stairs first is in the leadership position, in the dog world. By having Charlie wait for permission, he will start to look to his guardians for permission and by literally following them will be adopting a follower’s mindset. You can see how we trained Charlie to wait at the staircase in the video below.

Because Charlie likes to pull on the leash and get in front of his guardians on walks I wanted to do some leash training. Before starting the walk, I went over the rules for what I call a Structured Walk. We have five rules for going on a structured walk they are:

  • Position: keep you shoulder aligned with your hip or the seem of your pants
  • Loose Arm: keep your arm straight down and loose, except when correcting your dog
  • No Stopping & Sniffing: let your dog have a potty break before going for a structured walk
  • No Tension on the Leash: keep the leash relaxed at all times, except when you are giving a quick correction
  • No Marking: give your dog the option to go to the bathroom before beginning your walk

You can see how we taught Charlie to go on a Structured Walk in the video below.

Charlie’s guardians were concerned about how excited he got on walks when he saw another dog. Charlie is very friendly with other dogs on or off leash, however if he cannot greet a new dog when on a walk he gets anxious. I talked to the guardians about approaching new dogs slowly and only when Charlie was calm. If Charlie gets too excited they should turn around and increase their distance between Charlie and the other dog. They can also use Counterconditioning; for more details watch this video link.

I found a willing participant to help us train Charlie to gain self control when greeting new dogs. As luck would have it, our new dog participant is a trained therapy dog and was a wonderful help. You can see how we helped Charlie build self control when greeting new dogs in the video below.

By the end of the session Charlie was relaxed in his crate, greeting new dogs with calm energy and staying a respectful distance away from the door when guests entered the home. By adding rules, structure and practicing the exercises that we covered during our session, Charlie can keep up this good behavior and adopt a follower’s mindset. We ended our session with Charlie’s Roadmap to Success video, which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse

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