Monday, January 5, 2009

Training Rant - Doggie Door Etiquette

Some friends came over to visit us during the holidays and I found I was rather disappointed with their dogs' door etiquette. In fact, it was more than disappointment - it was downright frustrating. We had a 2 year old over who was frightened of dogs - I'm sure you can imagine the screams and tears. We have spent a week working with this little guy and dogs and how they are NOT scary.

Their dogs came in, ran all over the house from person to person and barked at each when they didn't stoop to pat them. If you still didn't stoop, they jumped all over you. One of the dogs came in and proceeded to urinate on the floor in the middle of our living room (the 5 year old lab). Now, I wouldn't mind if the dogs recently joined that family and needed to learn the rules, but two were purchased as puppies (now 2.5 and 3 yrs old) and the third has been in the same house for almost 5 years ("rescue" as 6 month old pup).

Can you imagine the resulting sounds that came out of that 2 year old child? There goes an entire week of teaching the child not to be frightened of dogs.

One of the first things we work on with the dogs we foster as well as our own is how to greet people at the door. Door etiquette works both ways. Coming in and having people come in. Here's what I mean:

People Coming in:
They are expected to keep away from the door when people come in the house and wait until they are called over for their pats. Yes, sometimes they get excited if they know the person and they will let out a bark, but in that case, they are to go get a toy to let out that excitement with. Otherwise, they have a spot to be and a job to do. They are to stay there until after the people get their jackets and boots off. This works particularly well when we have had people come over who are afraid of dogs or just plain don't like them. (It also helps if you have any uniformed officers come to the house or perhaps hunters knocking at the door.) If the people don't wish to greet the dogs, they don't have to.

The Dogs Enter Another House:
If the dogs are the ones that walked in, they are to sit in a heel and wait until we have come in and taken off our shoes/jackets. They are to stay within a few until they have calmed down. Once they have calmed down they are allowed to greet everyone and wander. If they get excited, they are to return to a heel and sit until calm again and the process is repeated.

Our dogs are NOT allowed to jump on people at the door. Period. The only people they are allowed to jump on are adults who call them up and after the dogs are calm and not anywhere near the time of walking through doors.

I believe I've mentioned this before, but when you walk into my place, you have to climb a flight of stairs. Our last "rescue" that never left (the one in the logo pic) would wait until you got to the top of the stairs, then jump on you. I nearly toppled down the stairs a few times before I was able to teach him how to properly greet people. For him the rules are slightly different as he is unable to sit quietly when people walk in the door - now he gets excited and goes to get a toy and lies down in another room until we come see him. This way he can chomp down on the toy and get out that excitement with the toy. Perhaps in another 6 months he will be able to sit quietly when we walk in ... we'll see - he's still a work in progress.

If you don't bother to teach your dog, especially something as common as how to deal with the situation of people coming in the door, never ... NEVER yell at them for not obeying you when you do finally want them to listen and do a certain thing.

I will reiterate again ... Your dog only knows what you've taught him/her, so why would you expect more than they can give?

Do your dogs have door etiquette? What are your rules with doors? Do you have certain behaviours you've taught them?


Barry said...

We have rules similar to yours. We have an alpha English Springer Spaniel, very intelligent and with lots of energy.

Both our daughters have very young children so we have put a corresponding amount of energy into the training of Lindsay.

My pet peeve is with adults who don't seem to understand the effort we've put into Lindsay's socialization and who seem to deliberately go out of their way to get her over excited, even to the point of rolling around on the floor with her (I suppose to show how comfortable they are with dogs.)

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Barry - you've touched on a nice subject there. One that shows different training styles. I may have to put a short blog entry about that.

tsm said...

Yeah, how do you train your friends to respect the teachings you have been instilling into your dogs.

How do you make your visitors understand that you now have to reprimand your dogs even more or harsher to get them settled?

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

TSM - That's the problem. You can't. You can't expect every single person who comes to your house to treat your dog the way you want.

What can you do? Well, you teach the dog how to cope and deal with these different styles of dog handling. If you teach your dogs how to "turn off" when excited then you won't have to reprimand at all.

It is just another learned behaviour. I am working on a blog posting for this ...