Yesterday I was out at a new Home Dog Training client in Flowery Branch working with their Weimaraner named Donald. I love Weimaraners and Donald was no exception. The major issue that my client had with Donald was his over exuberance when meeting people. As you might easily understand, some people don’t find it great fun when a large and energetic dog comes over and jumps up to greet them.
Well, we quickly resolved that problem and by the end of the lesson, Donald was able to calmly greet people, allow them to pet him while he remained calm, and sit at my client’s feet while they quietly conversed in the living room. This was wonderful to accomplish, and my client was ecstatic with what we were able to achieve. I told my client that our actions needed to be reinforced and practiced daily over the next six to eight weeks for Donald to completely understand how he needed to behave around new people.
Even though it was still only early November, my client mentioned that the Holiday Season was fast approaching. There were going to be a good number of people over during the Holidays and he wanted to be assured that Donald would be ready for the onslaught. He asked what he could do to help Donald through that period. I told him that this shouldn’t be an issue…
There are a few key points that I often stress with my clients as they begin their training experience. The first is that they must always be the ones in charge as they are teaching and directing their dog. Next, they must be aware of what their dog has the ability to learn and respond to that day. If they are trying to teach them something that their dog is unprepared to learn, their dog will not learn it.
Also, it is critical that the client is prepared to provide a quality teaching experience for their dog every day. If the client is not putting 100% into the teaching process, they will not properly teach their dog. They must “come to class prepared to teach”. With this said, let’s look at the Thanksgiving party/family scenario.
Thanksgiving afternoon is always kind of weird. For some reason, most of our out-of-town family and guests normally arrive at our front door within an hour or two of each other. All of a sudden, the house goes from “somewhat quiet” to a “bustle of activities” with the introduction of all sorts of new sights and smells. People are coming and going, doors are left ajar, and stuff that isn’t normally left out is now scattered over tables and on the ground. Kids are playing, the TV is blaring, and people are talking and laughing. You know, just another crazy Holiday Season.
All of these new sights and sounds may be fine for us. We are used to the concept of “guests and relatives in our home” and we can comprehend what is going on. Since Donald is a little “lively” when he meets people, he will probably get overexcited when a massive hoard of over adrenalized people descends on him at the same time.
One may believe that my client would not be able to keep Donald calm and under control under such crazy conditions so early into the training process. Even with all these factors working against us, I assured my client that things will be fine. I provided him with my “sure-fire solution”.
I told him that he should take Donald into a separate room in a quiet part of the house before his guests start to arrive. He should have the TV turned on and have all the doors closed. He should next “assign a friend” for Donald. The “friend” will remain in the room with Donald and be his “play-buddy”.
There should be toys and goodies that the play-buddy can use to maintain Donald’s focus. It is also important that they keep a leash on him so that his play-buddy can easily direct him back to him if Donald starts to become too interested in the noises that are “ramping up” in the other part of the house.
After a while, as with all family gatherings, things will start to calm down and things won’t be so nuts. Family and guests may have settled down to watch the game. They may now be helping in the kitchen or just “being quiet”. At this point, Donald and his play-buddy can slowly come out of their room and into the rest of the house. Remember to always keep the leash on Donald.
Take him to where most of the people are and stand in the doorway. Have Donald sit, remain still, and calm. After he “checks out the area”, slowly come into the room. Don’t keep him on a “super tight leash” but keep him relatively close to your side. If there is pulling on the leash or hesitation, stop and let him settle down. Quietly walk around the room without greeting any of the people in the room.
After one or two passes, allow the people in the room to calmly and slowly pet Donald. Once he is fine with that, drop the leash. Still keep it attached to him. Permit Donald to walk freely as you remain close to him. If he starts to become excited (i.e. jump, bark, etc), step on the leash, pick it up, and guide him back to you.
If this calms him down, drop the leash and continue. If Donald continues to be a little exuberant, momentarily remove him from the room to a quiet place. Once he is calm, slowly take him back into the room with your relatives and guests.
Always make sure that you are keeping your eyes on Donald in the event that he starts to get excited and act up. Chances are, he will find a quiet corner or a welcoming lap and just chill out.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.