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Door Greeting
updated: Oct 13, 2012, 11:52 AM

Dear Poncho,

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?


Michelle M.

Dear Michelle,

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.

Whaddya Want?

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 want.

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.

Let's connect!

Got a question about behavior, training or daily pup life? Email Poncho directly at advice@theinquisitivecanine.com

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-14 08:05 AM

Poncho knows his business, very good training suggestions. Dog trainers on the animal Planet say it's 20% training the dogs and 80% training the owners.


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