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How To Keep Your Dog Calm When Guests Arrive

Picture of people petting a dog


Does your dog try to knock over your guests or go on high alert and bark like mad at them? Either one of these reactions can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even alarming, especially if a guest gets unintentionally injured. Sure, if you have a small pup, you can scoop them up quickly. But, an over-eager St. Bernard can send your visitors sprawling across the floor.

Plus, you probably don't want to hold your dog the whole time you have company. Therefore, it's a good idea to work with your dog and prepare them for guests. It's time for your canine companion to get a crash course in Doggy Etiquette 101.

Preparing Your Dog For Guests

You might initially assume your pup is barking out of aggression, whether it’s protective, possessive, or some other type. However, quite often, your dog is likely just super excited. You can tell by their body language and how they’re holding their tail, ears, and their overall behavior.

Still, no matter the reason for your dog's barking, your guests will understandably find it unsettling or at least annoying. So, as a responsible pet parent, it’s your job to ensure your guests are comfortable and your dog is calm.

You can set up a doggy gate in a pinch, but this won’t solve the issue long-term. Plus, placing a barrier between your pup and your guests can even make the barking and behavior worse. Therefore, what’s needed here is training.

Start Early With Training

Teaching your dog the basics, like sit and stay, is the foundation for any well-behaved pup. Plus, the earlier you start to work with your dog and train them, the better. It’s also necessary to socialize your dog and expose them to a variety of positive experiences and people.  A big must is training your dog to lie down and settle.

Ensure you have lots of tasty treats at the ready for positive reinforcement and stay calm and consistent. This way, when guests arrive, you can give your pup the sit, lie-down or settle, and stay commands.

Make Sure Your Dog Isn’t Bored

It’s also a good idea to work with your dog on putting an end to excessive barking too. If your pup is over-excited, make sure you provide them with ample opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation. A bored dog tends to get up to more mischief than one that has had a chance to blow off some steam and have some fun.

Practice Makes Perfect

When the proper foundations are in place, you can work on more specific behaviors, like staying calm when guests arrive. You also can work with desensitizing your dog to the sound of the doorbell and the door opening.

Practicing these things before you have guests is key since practicing during the actual event will likely lead to chaos. After all, you want your dog to develop good habits before they knock over your guests.

  1. Start small by giving your pup the sit and stay commands by the front door. Then, open the front door and reward your dog when they stay in position. You might want to keep a leash on your pup during these training sessions, especially if they try to bolt whenever a door opens.
  2. If your dog stands or moves when you open the door, close it and give the sit and stay commands again. Keep working on this simple action until your dog consistently stays in position when you open the door.
  3. Next, have someone stand outside the closed door and knock. Give your pup the sit and stay commands. Have your friend knock again, and if your dog stays put, reward them with a treat. Do the same with the doorbell. Keep repeating these steps until your dog consistently remains in position despite the noise and doesn’t move until you give the release command.
  4. The final practice step is to open the door when your friend knocks or rings the doorbell and have your friend enter your home. Give your friend some treats ahead of time that they can give to your dog if your dog stays calm. This will help your dog associate guests with something positive.
A group of people eating with a dog sitting nearby

Tips For Keeping Your Dog Calm Around Guests

Once you’ve trained your dog properly on behaving around guests, you need to set them up for success. When guests arrive, make sure you stay calm. Remember, dogs are experts at sensing their owners’ emotions, so if you’re tense, your dog will be anxious and react accordingly.

Don’t race to the door when there’s a knock or the doorbell sounds. Instead, walk to the door calmly. Give your pup the sit and stay commands before you answer the door. Make sure to reward your pooch with a treat and praise.

Give your guests a heads up that you’re working with your dog on his greeting behaviors, and ask your guests to please ignore your pooch when they arrive. Also, it’s a good idea to have a few items on hand to make things easier.

Products That Can Help Your Dog Stay Calm

Do you ever notice when families bring young children to restaurants, the kids can start to get a bit antsy? Typically this is because they’re bored, but if they get to participate in the conversation or at least have something to do, like coloring the kid’s menu, they’re less likely to act out.

Well, the same applies to your dog. Remember, boredom equals bedlam. So, give your pup something to keep them stimulated and distracted. Fun and engaging dog toys, like the Rolly Cannoli are a great way to provide your pup with some much-needed focused activity. Another great option is spreading some of your pal’s favorite treats onto a Neat-Lik Mat and letting them self-soothe. The licking helps release endorphins which naturally calms your dog.

You can also try different calming sprays or diffusers. These products release a synthetic version of a naturally occurring pheromone in dogs. You can also get them in a calming collar form or try to give your pup a calming treat before the visit.

If your dog has anxiety and you’ve tried all of the above to your best effort, it’s essential to discuss the situation with your vet. Your pup might need medications or behavioral therapy to help cope with stressful situations.

Give Your Dog a Special Place

If your dog doesn’t already have their own space, it’s time to give them one. This can be a special bed, dog blanket, crate, or a favorite spot your pooch tends to gravitate to. You can teach your dog a command that tells them to go to this spot. Then, when guests ring the bell or knock, you can give your dog this command to go to their retreat.

To teach your pup this behavior, show them a treat, give the command, and lead them to the spot. When they arrive, provide them with the treat and say “Good (repeat the name of the command).” You can say something like, “go to your spot,” or “take a rest,” or “special place.” The point is to keep it consistent and work with your dog on this behavior ahead of time.

Ready for some company? With these tips and other helpful resources from our blog, your dog can be the well-behaved pooch he was meant to be.


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