How do I introduce my dog to guests in my home?

Michigan Dog Training, train your dog not to jump

Dogs accepting people into your home can be frustrating. Whether your dog is overly excited or fearful aggressive toward them, it takes training and patience to teach your dog to accept friendly visitors into your home.

With either situation, it’s important to desensitize your dog’s reaction to the sound of knocking or the door bell ringing. You can do this by pairing the sound of either with a tasty food treat. Don’t worry, your dog won’t learn to never bark as I know people still want their dog to alert them to visitors. They will still bark. We just want to reduce your dog’s level of reactivity to the sound so your dog remains in a thinking state of mind instead of a panic reactive state of mind.

To do this, have a family member the dog knows well knock on the door or ring the bell while standing indoors. Yes, the dog will know it’s them doing it but we want to start with easy exercises so your dog can have lots of success. Later, the family member can stand outside while knocking or ringing the bell. Have your dog on leash and when the sound is triggered, stuff your dog with a tasty treat. This way your dog won’t have time to bark. Repeat with many repetitions, and then reward your dog with the treat after he shows a few seconds of calmness upon the sound being triggered. At some point, your dog will look to you when the sound is triggered, when he does, reward with a treat. I call this desensitization process; 1. Stuff a dog, 2. Reward a dog, and then on the dog’s own terms, 3. he’ll look to you for the treat upon hearing the sound.

Michigan Dog Training, German Shorthair Pointer, Plymouth, Michigan, Place command

Hunter on place while Michael writes this blog post.

I also recommend teaching your dog to go to “place” which is a pre-determined location such as a place board, dog bed, or other item to go to and sit or lay down on. Once, on the place board; they can sit, lay down, change positions, etc. as it’s a location not a position. The place board should be within 15-20 feet of the front door and within viewing distance. That way your dog is more likely to stay on “place” if he/she can see what is happening at the door. You will teach your dog to stay on place despite three factors: 1. Duration of time on place, 2. Distractions, and 3. Distance from you as well as able to go to place from a distance.

Once the dog is desensitized to the sound of the knocking or doorbell and understands the “place” command, you can combine the two so that the sound informs the dog that the cue to go to “place” is forthcoming. To see how this is done, watch the below video in which Gabrielle rings the doorbell which told her puppy to go to place on the stairs. This allowed her to come inside without the puppy running outside past her which is what was happening before learning to go to “place.”

For a friendly highly energized dog, leave your dog on “place” when guests enter the home. At first, have your dog on leash so that he/she can’t catapult onto your guest. The dog understands not to leave “place” but will remain in an excited mood. As your dog calms down, have your guest approach your dog who is on place to receive petting.

If your dog re-energizes or comes off of place, have your guest step back while you resend your dog to “place.” Your dog will soon learn that the quickest way to get petting is to remain on place and calm themselves down. You can release your dog from “place” when he/she is calm.

For a highly energized dog or a fearful aggressive dog, obtain personal instruction by calling us at 734-634-4152 or go to Michigan Dog Training.

How do I teach my dog to go to “place”?

dog training, Michigan Dog Training, teach your dog to go to place, behavior shaping, clicker trainingMax and Lucky are attending private dog training lessons at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan with dog behaviorist Michael Burkey. In the video below, they demonstrate how to teach your dog to go to “place” via clicker training and behavior shaping.

Clicker training is using a sound such as the click of a clicker to mark the moment your dog did a desired behavior and to signal that a food reward is forthcoming. Behavior shaping is capturing and rewarding behavior as it occurs such as the dog touching the target stick with his nose versus luring the dog into the desired behavior. Luring tends to be a faster method of dog training but behavior shaping requires the dog to think instead of just follow a hand and thus cements the exercise into his mind more soundly. A dog taught via shaping is also more engaged in the learning exercise and willing to try new behaviors.

Teaching your dog to go to “place” (a pre-designated location) can be helpful when welcoming your guests into your home, having your dog go away from the kitchen table to prevent begging, jump into your vehicle, go to a spot and relax, etc.

Place can be taught via hand luring or in this example by teaching the dog to touch a target stick such as an Alley Pop freestanding target. The target stick is used to get the dog to move away from the handler. Later, the target stick is placed on the mat where you want your dog to go to and the final step is to remove the target stick and simply have the dog go to the mat on the cue of “place”.

The five steps for teaching your dog go to “place” using behavior shaping include:
1. Teach your dog to touch a target stick held in your hand,
2. Teach your dog to touch a free standing target stick,
3. Send your dog to the target stick from a distance,
4. Place the target stick on a mat to start teaching “place”,
5. Remove the target stick from the “place” mat and cue – Place