Managing Greetings at the Front Door

Our dogs do not shake our hand or hug us when they want to say hi. Instead, they jump on us because they want to access our faces and mouths. This goes way back to their wolf past. Wolves regurgitate food to give to their pups so pups learn to lick their parent’s mouth to request food. This is a trait that was passed down to our dogs even after domestication.

Your dog is not being naughty, he is just being a dog and saying hello as dogs do. The problem becomes even harder to manage when the dog is allowed to greet at the front door – especially – people your dog does not see on a regular basis and likes. The novelty amps up most dogs. Another factor is tight quarters at the front door. We proceed with our dog following in tow to answer the front door from a much larger area: the foyer, living room, etc; dogs are very sensitive to space feel and uncomfortable when they now find themselves sort of cornered. This can readily escalate into feeling threatened because he does not have a lot of room to maneuver.

At times, when it comes to more than one dog exchanging pleasantries with your friends at the front door, the reduced space can make the dogs compete for access to a resource (visitor) resulting in some form of redirected aggression. Nice! Your dogs are fighting for access and your friend(s) and you are caught up in the middle. So at all costs avoid, avoid, and avoid having your dogs rush to greet anyone at the front door.

You can most definitively teach them appropriate manners at the front door so that they also learn that no rowdy behavior earns them the chance to greet the person. If following this route, you will need to make sure each dog has learned how to greet politely before having them practice together with a family member and eventually once the behavior(s) are solid take the leap to practicing with volunteers that have nothing else going on in their lives than help you train your pups. 🙂

When it comes to an over enthusiastic dog that is super friendly and thinks, of course, that everyone is there to see him… (LOL) follow these steps to teach your pup that he can say hello and in the process not jump on your guests. The recommendations below are for dogs that are friendly to people and welcome newcomers into their home. Please do not follow the protocols below if your dog is fearful or might aggress in any way.

If your guest is interested in helping you train your dog you can practice as described here:

You will bring her out on a leash after you have said hello to your guests and they have settled in the living room, etc.

For this, you will need to keep your dog in another room preferably with a chew toy or a few treats scattered on the floor for her to find, while you are greeting your guest at the front door. In other words, avoid at all costs, having your pup saying hello at the front door!

Welcoming your friend and training your dog at the same time is nearly impossible. Best to have a plan in place and work your plan when you have people over to visit.

Saying Hello On A Leash:

Once your guest is sitting down you can bring your dog out to say hello. If you think she might still jump at the person while seated, have some really good treats to throw on the floor close to your guest’s feet before she gets a chance to jump up. You might have to do this a few times for your dog to learn that instead of jumping up, she gets to look for the treats on the ground.

What I like about this protocol is mainly two things: Your dog is getting some access to the visitor – which is what she wants in the first place by being in close proximity and having an opportunity to sniff. As such, we are giving the dog what she wants which always makes for a more successful and fair (to the dog) behavior modification plan. However, because we are feeding at the feet, the dog learns with multiple repetitions to avoid accessing the person’s face because we have also been reinforcing having four legs on the ground.

Keep your dog on a leash until she has completely calmed down. It is perfectly fine to remove your dog momentarily from the interaction if at any time your dog fails to look for the treats and attempts to say “hi” doggie-style.

To do so: You will calmly, without jerking your dog around, give your dog some distance from the guest by redirecting where you throw the tasty treat (think small and high value here). Continue to yo-yo your dog close and far from the guest until the novelty of the visit has worn out a bit.

Once your dog is under self-control remember, this will become easier and easier with more practice, you can give her something interesting such as a chew bone or a favorite toy that comes out for occasions like this, so she can hang out with you guys but not be a pest. Do not expect success right away… for dogs just like for people learning requires many opportunities to practice and the right conditions.

Practice with family members so that when non-family members come over, you both know exactly what to do and can more easily overcome the novelty factor.