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updated: Oct 13, 2012, 11:52 AM
My dog is an adorable 2-year-old Shih Tzu named Reggie. We have not been able to train him to behave
nicely when someone comes in the front door. We just can't seem to get him to calm down! He is so
excited that he actually pushes people back out the door. I always hoped he would outgrow this
behavior, but it seems to be getting worse. Fortunately he knows his basic manners, but we're
wondering if you can help with this door issue?
Wow, talk about enthusiastic! It's as if Reggie is hosting a surprise party for everyone who comes by.
Fun times. For him. But I can totally get why you'd want to teach him some doggy-door-decorum. The
following training tips should help you in reach that goal. Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:
Know Your Animal!
Dogs are social animals. We're pretty smart, too, in that we soon figure out that knocking and/or the
ringing of the doorbell predicts opportunities for greeting humans. With repetition, our response gets
stronger and stronger.
Using basic behaviors to help manage your dog in real-world situations can be quite effective in solving
those typical doggy behavior challenges you might encounter. Since Reggie already knows his basics, it
may just be a matter of using them where and when they're most handy: in this case, when someone
comes to the door. Putting Reggie in a sit or down for an extended period of time would be ideal, and
my top recommendation. If he's doing either of those, then he's not doing the other stuff you don't
The sequence of events would look something like this: The doorbell rings. You ask Reggie to go to a
specified place-his bed or a mat, for instance--and give him the cue to sit, lie down, or stand still. You
go and open the door.
Reward. Reward. Reward.
Motivation, motivation, motivation! Reggie's current behavior tells you that his love of saying hello to
people is more motivating than listening to your requests. How do you fix that? Simple. Make whatever
you're offering more enticing than the visitors--especially if it's the pizza delivery person. Of course,
you can always include your guests in your training plan. If Reggie behaves the way you want, he gets a
yummy treat from you, as well as the attention of your visitors. Knowing that he's going to get both of
these re-wards might be just what Reggie needs to motivate him to listen.
Environmental Management Committee
Company's coming but you still haven't taught Reggie what you want? Then you'll want to set him up
for success and arrange the situation so that he isn't given the opportunity to run over the guests.
Sequestering him behind a dog-gate, in a crate, or in a separate room with doggy-friendly activities is a
reasonable option. An alternative is having Reggie on leash being handled by you or someone else when
your guests arrive. Keep in mind it's not fair to Reggie if he ends up doing things you don't want just
because op-portunity--or a guest--has knocked.
Paws and Reflect
Continuing your current positive-reinforcement training in situations where these behaviors are
important to the household is a great way to keep Reggie motivated and focused on his responsibilities
as a host.. In time you might be more inclined to have company over to show off Reggie's
accomplishments, and your company will enjoy their visits more, too.
Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and ca-nine behavior. He
and his mom work together running the family business, providing dog-training services to other
inquisitive canines and their humans. For additional train-ing and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog.
Got a question about behavior, training or daily pup life? Email Poncho directly at email@example.com
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