I was in Roswell last Friday working with a new Home Dog Training client and his Cocker Spaniel named Freddie. I always ask my clients to come up with a list of “A Priorities” for us to work on first. I normally ask them to fill in the blank “My dog bugs me because …” and that becomes our initial To-Do List. My client had come up with a list of jumping, stealing, and digging holes. Well, we got those issues well on the way to resolution at the first session. As we were finishing up, he stopped and said he just thought of a new “Freddie bugs me because…” answer. It seemed that Freddie goes nuts whenever he hears guests coming to the front door and continues his “nuts” when they come in.
I put my bag down and said that we should take care of this before I leave so that he could practice it for next time. We always tell our clients that we don’t leave until all is done, and this absolutely needed to be addressed.
Dogs going crazy when people come to the front door or being annoying when guests arrive is a rather common occurrence and something that can be easily addressed. The issues at hand come from the heightened excitement of sounds close to Freddie’s “home area”, new animals in his proximity, and lack of clear direction from his owner regarding his appropriate actions. My client’s normal responses of “Stop it”, and pushing him away only heightened Freddie’s adrenaline and provided no clear, canine direction. It was time to fix that.
The first thing that I told my client was to put a leash on Freddie when he was home. He didn’t need to hold the leash; just let Freddie walk around with it dangling behind him. This will be the main tool in redirecting Freddie away from the sounds outside and providing him with the appropriate, corrective communication.
We now set up a little “exercise” to put this into practice. I explained what I wanted him to do and then I went outside to be the “outside noises of people coming to the house”.
As I approached the house, Freddie began to run around and jump on the door. My client calmly went over and stepped on the handle side of the leash. This meant that he was still six feet away from Freddie and not creating any excited response due to his proximity. He then calmly bent down and picked up the leash handle in his hand.
Next, he gave a slight corrective verbal sound and tugged the leash towards him. The moment Freddie broke focus with my sound and looked at my client, he started to guide and walk Freddie away from the front of the house.
My client remained calm and steadfast while he was walking Freddie away. These are very important canine communication body language techniques to show safe and resolute leadership. He was “telling” Freddie that all was fine and he would be safe.
Freddie quickly calmed down and no longer paid any attention to my noises outside. We repeated the exercise several times until Freddie did not display any inappropriate actions when he heard me coming to the door.
Now, we moved on to my coming in the door. The idea here is that if my client can keep Freddie calm and controlled when I (a guest) come in the door, the rest of the visit will continue calm and controlled. I explained what I wanted my client to do and I went outside again to start the exercise.
I came to the door and knocked. Freddie became excited and ran to the door. My client (remember, I told him what to do) calmly walked to the door, faced Freddie, and verbally/passively physically corrected him. Freddie was still a little adrenalized, so my client stepped on the leash and guided him about seven to ten feet away from the door.
Still remaining calm, he slowly backed up to the door while facing Freddie. His calm demeanor and facing posture communicated to Freddie that he was in charge and in control. Freddie remained back as my client slowly opened the door.
As my client was opening the door, Freddie began to move forward. My client corrected him again and Freddie stopped. My client could then successfully open the door for me (while facing Freddie the entire time) and allow me in.
He and I stood at the doorway for a moment while we observed that Freddie was watching us and remaining calm. My client then called Freddie over and praised him for being a good boy.
To finish the exercise, we walked into the family room and sat down. Since Freddie was calm at the door, my client could easily respond to any escalation in inappropriate adrenalized activity from Freddie. That did not happen.
My client had successfully followed the steps I provided to make sure Freddie was a good boy when there were close noises and arriving guests. My client and Freddie now had two additional exercises to practice until our next lesson.
Clear focus and control are key to a dog’s learning. Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over fourteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.