You may be expecting company this holiday season. Whether it’s 2 people or 20, introducing your guests to your dog may be a little daunting, especially if your pup isn’t very social. Having strangers in the home can be stressful for a pooch, and meeting a dog for the first time can be stressful for a human. Here are a few things to practice with your pup to help ease any anxiety for your dog and your guests:
Leash your dog before answering the door- This keeps you in control of your dog. Afterall, it is your home, you should be in control of who enters it – not your dog. Keep the leash loose most of the time so you don’t send the wrong message to your dog. A continuously tight leash could tell him that you’re anxious which can in turn make him anxious. If you need to correct bad behavior, such as pulling or jumping, quickly tighten the leash then release. You can also have him sit and stay until he has calmed down.
Reward calm behavior- Have your dog sit and stay before answering the dog. Reward him for his calm behavior with a treat (which you can keep near the door), verbal praise, or hand him his favorite toy to hold. You can also have your guest offer him a treat when you open the door. But please remember to keep your pups feet on the floor when saying hello. Jumping on a person is never a polite greeting (in both dog and human etiquette).
Never force a situation- If a dog doesn’t want to sniff a hand or be pet, then do not force him to. That is how dog bites happen. It may be best for your guest to simply ignore your dog until he (your dog) decides he wants to greet them.
Do not have your dog greet people when agitated- If you are expecting company but your dog is not in the mood to be social, or if your dog is overwhelmed by the number of guests, have a quiet place he can go for a time out. Time outs aren’t always bad; sometimes dogs just need some quiet time.
Have your guests greet your dog properly- Body language is everything to a dog, which a lot of humans take for granted. Dogs are communicating with us constantly but we tend to ignore the signals or misunderstand them, which can lead to a dog bite. Ensure your guests are greeting your dog properly to avoid any problems.
· When greeting a dog it is best to avoid direct eye contact, as it is very dominating and dogs can feel threaten by that.
· You should never get in a dogs face, with kisses or the like. Dogs should be allowed to smell the back of your hand before you touch them. And remember, they have an excellent sense of smell so no need to put your hand right up to their nose.
· You can ask the dog out loud for permission to pet him, and if he seems open to your approach, pet him on the shoulder or under his chin. Do not lean over him or pet him on the head because this too can be taken as a threat.
Practice these techniques as often as you can. You can do this whenever someone comes to the door or even when you meet strangers out in public, like at the pet store or coffee shop. The more you expose your dog to these situations the better he will be at greeting strangers. For more of a challenge (and a little bit of fun) you can teach your dog to shake hands when he meets strangers. Everyone is sure to love your perfectly polite pup.