Putting an End to Buster’s Excitement When Guests Knock

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 11, 2015

Buster

Buster is a two year old male Rottweiler who gets over excited when someone passes by the front of his home or knocks at the door.

When I knocked at the door I heard I heard an excited bark but it didn’t sound territorial or aggressive. It took a minute before his owner could get a hold of him and open the door. She was holding him back by his collar and a pseudo bear hug. When a dog is excited and you pull or hold them back, this often increases the intensity or excitement so I told her to let him go. He came up and gave me a number of deep sniffs, but didn’t jump up (likely due to his size and weight) or show any warning signs to be concerned of. It was clear he was just very excited to investigate who the new person was.

When we sat down to discuss the situation, I made a few moves to correct him when he got too close. While it wasn’t aggressive, it was too much and too close. Buster was very responsive to my requests to respect a two foot boundary, but after moving away he would circle back and try again and again. I needed up correcting him three times before he sat down at the distance I wanted.

As I discussed the situation with his owner, it was clear that Buster’s main issue was losing control when he got over excited. I went over a few techniques that his owners can use to calm him down. As we discussed these, I noticed that any time he got close to his owner he would sit on top of her foot or lean against her. This is a fairly common trait amongst bully breeds and Rotties so I started to show her how to define her personal space.

Next I went over an exercise to help Buster’s owner introduce and practice setting boundaries. It only took me one repetition before he understood the rules of the exercise, but it took his owner a few additional repetition before she was able to get the same response. I suggested that she practice the exercise daily for the next week or two to really cement in the concept and give the dog the ability to practice respecting boundaries and look to his owner for guidance.

Because guests knocking on the door was a big trigger for Buster, one of his owners went out the back and practiced being a guest knocking at the door. As soon as he heard the knock, Buster’s energy level shot up as did his intensity. He bounded around the room barking while jumping up on the couch which was against the window overlooking the front yard.

I ignored him and walked calmly to the front door. As soon as he noticed my movement he charged in my direction. I turned to face him and made a sound to communicate that I disagreed with his proximity to the door. Because he was so excited, the sound had no effect so I moved suddenly in his direction. This blocked him from approaching the door and stopped his movement and barking for a second before he attempted to go around me to get to the door.

I moved side to side to block him from getting to the door. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Buster stopped and barked from the same location. I ignored the barking and took one deliberate step backwards keeping my hips and shoulders pointed at the dog. I paused after the step to see how Buster would react. After a second he attempted to move to the door again so I repeated the blocking exercise. We went back and forth this way a few times before he stayed at the boundary I wanted him to respect, about 10 feet from the door. I waited a second and didn’t continue until I saw that his energy level and intensity dropped.

I walked backwards again pausing between steps until I got to the door. I touched the doorknob to make a sound. As soon as he heard it he started to get up so I made a sound to disagree with his action. Because he was calmer, this time he heard it and responded the way I wanted. I cracked the door and this time he stayed in a sitting position. His barking subsided and while he was watching intently, he was able to control himself and stay in a sitting position ten feet from the door.

After letting her inside, I kept the boundary in place to allow her to come inside without being sniffed or accosted but he dog. Its important that the dog learn that the proper way to behave when guest arrive is to be calm and maintain a respectable distance until the human enters the room.

We practiced the exercise agin but this time his primary owner was the one who walked to and opened the door. As soon as the knocking started, Buster’s energy level went up again, but not as much as before. He barked, but with far less intensity and quantity. While it took me about three minutes to actually open the door, his owner was able to do so in half the time. I suggested that all the members of the family practice this exercise so that the dog learns that this new behavior is expected for everyone.

By the end of the session Buster was much more respectful and responsive to his owners commands, corrections and personal space. His energy level was much lower and he seemed more centered and balanced. It will be important that his owner stop and pause whenever the dog starts to get over excited.

By practicing this pausing and waiting for the dog to calm itself down before continuing, his owners will be able to communicate the new rules, boundaries and behavior they expect from him from this point on.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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