You hear a knock at the door….what’s your reaction? Panic? Are you immediately breaking into a sweat, knowing the dogs are going to bark nonstop, charge visitors with either kisses and wild jumping, or with snarling and teeth? Are you tripping, lurching, sweating, by the time you open the door, as the dogs swarm under your feet, knocking you against the walls?
We’ve all been there! It can be solved though, and more quickly and easily than you’d imagine.
Like all other dog behavior modification plans, you must have a clear picture in your mind before you start: What is the perfect scene, to you, of how your dogs would react to visitors? Where would your dogs go, to stay out of the way?
First, practice with a family member or friend. When the knock comes:
1. Calm yourself. Frantic, nervous energy cannot control a dog. It is weak energy!
2. Move ahead of the dogs, near the door. Do not try to call them away from the door from behind. You are going to “Claim” the door and your visitors as *yours* – off limits to the dogs. You are expecting them to give the door and the visitors respectful distance.
3. Stand up tall and lean into your dogs, pushing your strong, stern energy into them. Do not yell, talk or nag to them. Simply tell them “Go” if you feel you need to, as you point away from the door.
4. The first time, they’ll likely ignore you, act confused, and try to get around you. Block with your body, with your determined, hard gaze, and insist that they go. If they do not, give them a sharp tap or jab in the ribs behind right above the elbow. Use whatever intensity you need to get the dog to back off. If you have multiple dogs, target the strongest/most dominant one. Don’t push them or restrain them. You only will strengthen their desire to surge ahead.
5. Keep on them until they attain that “perfect scene” you imagined earlier? Were they lying politely in the kitchen? On their doggy beds? In the corner by the desk? Go ahead and keep on them until they are there. Once they are in the place you’d like them, Use a firm touch with extended fingers on the sides of their ribs to tap/nudge/coerce (you’re imitating a dominant dog now, pushing with their muzzle to lay a puppy down on the ground) your dog into the sitting or lying position.
6. It’s okay if you only get partway to your “perfect scene” at first try. What’s more important than a perfect “sit” or “down”, is that the dog become calm and in a listening, follower state of mind. You’ll see him look less frenetic, his head relax and lower. You want that space, and you want them standing away, obediently, if not in a perfect “sit” or “down”.
7. Try it again several times and notice how each time you’ll feel more confident, which the dog picks up on, and you’ll get closer to your perfect picture each time.
8. You OWN the door and a “bubble” of space several feet around it. Respectful dogs do not crowd, or even step foot into that bubble. Insist on it! Get it!
9. This practice will go much smoother if your practice visitors, and also your real visitors practice “No touch, No talk, No eye contact” when they enter.
10. When you enter and leave the house, you need to also practice “No touch, No talk, No eye contact”. This emphasises your leader role to your dogs, and helps them to have less emotional door interactions. This rule will also help with separation anxiety that some dogs experience.
Remember that a pack leader moves *toward*, moves calmly and deliberately, and always gets what she wants!!!