The holidays can be stressful enough with out-of-town friends and family visiting. An overly excited dog doesn’t make life easier!
I am dealing with this myself as I have a 9-month-old Weimaraner who is extremely friendly. He tries to jump on people, and it’s challenging to keep him under control! So, I thought I’d share my management tips.
Please share what works for keeping your dog calm in the comments. This is such a common problem!
Tips for keeping your dog calm around holiday visitors
1. Lots of daily exercise.
A tired dog will be at least slightly calmer and better behaved at the door than a dog who hasn’t had enough exercise. Unfortunately, it’s generally not enough to take your dog for a long walk the morning your visitors will arrive. It’s more effective if you can take your dog for a long walk every single day so he has less pent-up energy in general.
Other tips: Take him to daycare a few days per week, take him running, use a doggy backpack, visit new places to tire him out or work on obedience training.
2. Come up with a game plan and practice.
It’s helpful if you can write down exactly what you want your dog to do when people visit. Then slowly work up to that point.
For example, if you want your dog to stay on a dog bed in the other room when people arrive, you would have to practice this in less “exciting” scenarios over several weeks.
For example, will he stay on his bed when you ring the doorbell yourself? How about if another family member rings it? Or a delivery person? You would want to work with your dog during “less exciting” situations first. Eventually, you could practice with out-of-town relatives arriving.
Here are some things you can do in the meantime …
3. Leash your dog at the door.
Sometimes, simply putting a leash on your dog will make all the difference because you can use it to maintain more control and firmly remind your dog not to jump. You can also keep him closer to you vs. running up to greet people. Most people tend to greet dogs in an excited voice, which just makes the dog all the more excited!
4. You could put your dog in a kennel or in another room.
My puppy is so excited at the door that I actually just put him in his kennel when I know someone will be visiting. He stays in there with a hollow toy I can stuff with peanut butter and treats. That keeps him busy for about a half-hour and then I take him out to greet everyone on a leash.
This is just easier because it allows me to focus on my guests vs. trying to make my dog behave. It also gives my dog some time to get used to the sounds and smells of who’s visiting but from a distance.
If you have a dog who is fearful or overly protective, putting him in a crate for some downtime is probably a good idea.
5. Head out for a walk together.
If you have visitors who would be up for a walk, this is a great way to introduce people to your dog, especially if they’ve brought their own dogs along.
When my parents recently came to visit, I had my puppy in his kennel for the first half-hour, and then we all went for a group walk together. I didn’t allow Remy to greet my parents until after the walk because then he was much calmer and could greet them without jumping.
Tip: This is an especially good idea if you have a dog who tends to urinate when he’s excited or nervous. It allows you go do the greeting outside!
6. Use highly valued treats to reward calm behavior.
Once the initial greeting is out of the way, it helps to have highly valued treats your dog is willing to work for. You can use them to reward your dog for any good behavior such as sitting, lying down, staying on a dog bed or simply being calm. This is a good time to practice commands like “go to your bed” or “stay.”
7. Ask visitors to ignore your dog.
Finally, and perhaps the most difficult of all, it is very helpful if people can truly ignore your dog. I know it’s almost impossible to get some people to do this. It might be because they don’t quite understand what you mean.
I tell people not to acknowledge my dog at all for at least a half-hour. Don’t even look at him, I say. When people can follow through with this and truly not acknowledge Remy, it makes an incredible difference for helping him calm down much faster.
What tips do the rest of you have for keeping a dog calm and controlled around visitors?
Let us know in the comments!