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  • Writer's pictureCassidy

Door Manners

There is something so heartwarming about coming home to your dog who is so excited to see you, tail wagging and begging for kisses; clearly the best part of their day is seeing you.

What's not so nice is when you come home, arms full of groceries, struggling to open the door without letting your dog run out, shouting "down" as they repeatedly jump almost knocking everything to the floor, and won't give you a moment to even take off your wet shoes. Replace groceries with an infant... Replace yourself with a neighbour who has a fear of dogs. Door manners are important.

The Beginning

I'm going to use Riley as my wonderful example for this all too common problem. I first met Riley in September of 2018 when David returned from a sail and was able to get Riley from his family in Ontario. Up to this point I've spent 8 months knowing Riley only through photos and I could not wait to meet the beautiful boy.

I remember going over to David's house so excited to meet this handsome Ri, and upon entering the house it did not take long for an introduction to be made. Riley's habitual move when a guest arrives was to jump at them excitedly (he absolutely adores people) and grab at them - their sleeve, purse, hat, whichever was easiest available. He wasn't biting, it wasn't malicious, he was just grabby.

Riley's excitement to see me at first was humorous and joyful, what a feeling to be so loved by such a good boy. Over the weeks that followed, however, I was less joyous about my visits and certainly less humoured. I would dread walking through the front door as an 80 pound animal, larger than me, would surely send my flying across the entrance. I would have to hold my purse over my head so he wouldn't grab it, and as soon as I took my shoes off (my all too expensive Blundstones) he would just as quickly grab one and he would not. let. go.

We would often order in a pizza and we had to strategize how we were going to enter through the door so that Riley did not either grab the pizza box, or jump up and knock it out of our hands. This behaviour continued after walking through the front door... but that is not the focus right now.

[David and I did not see each other between Jan - Aug 2019. Our story continues upon reuniting]

Training Begins

When David and Riley moved into my home in November of 2019 I made it very clear that he would be trained, by me, my way. My case was easily made when we agreed that not only should a dog be calm, but we now have three together, it would be unbearable.

The first thing to change is how David acted upon coming home. Riley was excited to see David, who was equally as excited and loved to greet Riley with pats and 'good boy!', simply feeding into the excitement. If you want your dog to be calm, you have to be calm and ignore the unwanted behaviour.

When we first started this training, it was when David came home from work and I was present (working from home). I would be able to direct Riley to where he should be and when David comes home I tell Riley to stay in 'place', he would be rewarded when he listened. Buuuuut this didn't always work, so when Riley pushed past me to see David, he would have to simply ignore him and allow me to handle Riley.

I learned to use a leash so that when Riley tried to disobey me and leave his 'place', he would still not be able to get to David. This gives me the opportunity to bring Riley back to his place quickly so he learns that he cannot leave until I say.

The goal is to allow David to walk in the door, take off his coat and shoes, and put down whatever may be in his hand. At this point Riley can approach David calmly and when he sits nicely he can get Davids attention. If Riley bounces towards David, he doesn't get attention, if he jumps, spins, or is otherwise not calm, he does not get attention. This is the beginning of teaching Riley what we expect from him when we come in the door.

Ongoing Training

Consistency consistency consistency. Essential to whatever you are training. No matter how long you've been away and no matter who is coming to the door, the behaviour expected has to be the same.

Sometimes when we come home, especially if we're walking in the door with food, the dogs can be too much. We simply direct them away from the door, firmly but calmly. We use 'out' or 'go'. The dogs need to give us space until we are ready.

I have a habit of ignoring the dogs well after I'm "ready" to say hi, to show them that they are not entitled to affection the second I come home. I love seeing their excited faces and their tails wag in anticipation. I also love that they're respecting me so much and behaving like little angels.

Rey is hilarious - sometimes when we come home we joke that she doesn't even care because she doesn't move a muscle. I love it. I know 100% that she loves us more than anything and she is thrilled that we are home. But training her from a puppy that I don't greet excitement as paid off big time.

Greeting Guests

Training guests is very hard, but so important because not all guests love the excitement, while some absolutely adore it.

Whenever I have someone new come over I let them know that they cannot say hi to the dogs until I say so and I'll be directing our dogs on what to do. The dogs love new people and often they forget their training because they're so excited to say hi, so it can be very difficult.

When I know that someone is coming over I am of course prepared to give the dogs direction and correct them if needed. I do not always know when someone might come knocking on the door. Whether that is a family/friend stopping by, a delivery person, or a neighbour, I want to be able to easily answer the door with the dogs waiting patiently behind me.

It's important to create a boundary by the door the your dog knows not to pass. Or a boundary that they know to go to. Or both.

We don't often have people come to the door who don't come right in with me prepared to direct the dogs, so truthfully, unexpected guests are still a work in progress. I don't know how the dogs will behave if someone comes to the door and does not immediately come in (a child selling raffle tickets for example).

Now that I type this I realize that I need to set up this specific scenario! I will ask my sister to come to the door and knock and I will open the door but she won't come in. We will simply talk at the door. (Courtney this is you and you will help me- thanks). This will be hard because the dogs will be so excited to see her and it will definitely test their self-control to not try to push past me to get to her. I'm excited for this!!!


Side note: we have a dog bed in the corner of our living room (near the front entrance) with an eye-hook into a stud with a leash attached so that if need be, we can attach a dog if they will not behave.

If you have any suggestions or tips that have worked for you, I would love to hear about them!!

I am not a trainer, this is simply what has worked for me and what we are currently working on.

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1 Comment

Aug 05, 2020

As one of those people on the other side of the door, I really appreciate being able to settle in before being jumped on and smothered with love.

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