Rules and Structure Help Stop a Pair of Dogs From Getting Overexcited When Guests Arrive

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 6, 2015

Lola and Jax

Jax (left) is a four-year-old Lab / Pit mix who lives with Lola a three-year-old Mastiff / Shepherd mix. Both dogs get super excited when people arrive; jumping up on them, barking, etc.

I had planned on filming my initial arrival but the dogs were so excited I had to address and correct the behavior right away. I applied the technique I developed to disagree and curb dogs from jumping up on Jax and it worked wonders as usual. After that correction, he decided to stop trying to jump up on me or his guardians.

Once they settled down a bit, I left to pretend to arrive again so I could capture the arrival excitement on video.

I sat down with their guardians to discuss how I could help and noticed both dogs repeatedly invading their guardian’s personal space. It didn’t take long to see why. Each time the dog got near enough to touch, the guardians started to pet them.

Compounding the issue, when one dog saw the other was getting attention, it tried to insert itself in-between them to get some love for itself.

To eliminate this behavior, the guardians will need to stop rewarding the dogs for invading their space. After asking them to refrain from petting the dogs, they still instinctively reached over a few times before stopping themselves. It will take time and practice to break them from this almost involuntary petting habit.

The second part of stopping this behavior is for the humans to claim their personal space and disagree with the dogs the instant they get too close without an invitation.

Because the guardians didn’t have any rules or boundaries in place and they petted the dog when it demanded attention or when involved in unwanted actions or behaviors, the dogs thought that they had the same rights and authority as their guardians.

I suggested a few rules and boundaries to adopt to help the dogs start to see themselves as being in the follower position. Incorporating limits and rules that ask the dog to hold back or restrain itself from things it wants to do are great ways to help your dog develop some discipline.

I also suggested that the guardians try to refrain from petting the dog for no reason. Instead I showed them how to ask for a sit or down, and then pet and reward the dog only after it complies. This is a simple but EXTREMELY effective method to redefine the leader follower dynamic.

Next I went over some non verbal communication cues as well as some escalating consequences to apply when the dogs broke any of these new rules or boundaries. This will allow the guardians to communicate with the dogs in their “native” language and avoid any excitement or frustration from being incorporated when the humans command or correct the dogs.

To help them practice these new cues and consequences, I ran Jax through a leadership exercise I developed a few years ago. Once he seemed to get it, I coached his guardians through it one at a time.

Fortunately these dogs were eager to make their guardians happy. It only took two repetitions before the dog was progressing through the exercise with minimal corrections needed.

After the husband ran through the exercise a second time, his wife took her turn with Jax and he finished it in record time!

Now that the guardians had the tools to disagree with unwanted behavior and had achieved the leadership role in the dog’s eyes, we were ready to tackle the big issue, their excitement and behavior when guests arrived and knocked on the door.

I had one of the guardians step out and play the part of an arriving guest so I could demonstrate how to claim the area around the door. Being a split level house, it required some marching up the stairs, but after only two corrections the dogs waited up on the top step when I opened the door.

The increased distance from the door helped dogs be less reactive. And by confidently claiming the door area, I was able to communicate to them that I had the situation handled and didn’t need their assistance.

I had the guardian head back out so we could practice again but this time have the other guardian be the one who answered the door.

The fourth time we practiced the exercise, the dogs only barked a handful of times and stayed behind the boundary I originally established. Their barks were far less intense and their energy was far calmer.

I suggested that the guardians practice this exercise with one another until the dogs no longer race ahead of them or get excited when someone knocks on the door. Usually it only takes 6-12 repetitions at this exercise before the dogs change their door greeting behavior into a calmer more respectful interaction.

It was great to see how much better behaved the dogs were by the end of the session. They were respecting the guardian’s personal space, were watching them for cues and obeyed commands right away. Its clear these dogs want to make the guardians happy. Now that they are only petting them for desired actions and behaviors, it won’t take the dogs long to start engaging in them as a way to get the guardians attention.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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