4 Helpful Tips for Introducing Your Dog To Visitors

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This weekend we hosted two pretty great friends of ours for dinner. We enjoyed a ton of good laughs and it was really fun spending time with them.

One of things I appreciate about this couple is our phone conversations leading up to the dinner dates we set.

If I brought Chauncey a toy, he’d still probably hate it, right?
You know he looks like that shrimp from Sesame Street, am I wrong?

Sarcastic jokes and funny observations about my weird dog give me the chance to provide a heads up to people coming by. And I use it to my advantage when training Chauncey, who will always be a work in progress.

This brings me to today’s topic. A lot of Rover-Time clients ask for my best advice on introducing their dog to new people. They’re tired of those undesired behaviors: the jumping, repeated barking, and the growling. So here are a few simple tips:

  1. Before your friends arrive, speak with them in advance about the training you’re doing with your dog. Explain that you’re working on polite greetings and that their support makes a difference and helps a lot.
  2. Leash your dog before opening the door for visitors. It’s up to you to keep control of the situation. Have treats handy to reward your dog’s good and calm behavior and any progress they make.
  3. Teach your visitors the importance of their body language and how it translates to your dog. For example, they could take a sideways stance instead of looking at him head-on. Dogs perceive this as less threatening. Pretending to be indifferent to him (by avoiding direct eye contact or looking in another direction) will also help set your dog at ease and sends a signal that your guest means no harm.
  4. Share a handful of dog treats with your guests. When your pup does a sit-stay or goes into the down position, they can offer one treat at a time.

For those of you with a fearful dog, or if you live with more than one, I have some additional tips for you:

  • Never try to introduce your dog to a visitor if he seems stressed. It’s never good to force a dog into a behavior. Set up a tall baby gate near your entry that your dog can look through from a distance. This approach won’t directly modify your dog’s behavior but it protects your guests and prevents a scared or nervous dog from possibly escaping through the front door.
  • Crate your dog or put him in a separate room and distract him with a really yummy treat. This practice alone also doesn’t change unwanted greeting behavior. However, it guarantees safety and is particularly useful for dogs who are not used to a lot of visitors, or who dislike strangers, or those who have guarding instincts.
  • If you have more than one dog, avoid having them greet visitors at the door. Even if the dogs show acceptable greeting behavior individually, when they convene at the door, they may excite one another while competing for the visitor’s attention. The excitement could even lead to a fight or a bite.

There a ton of fantastic resources out there to help you out with your dog. If you’re interested in a book or article recommendation, leave a comment and I’ll share my favorite links. And remember, for persistent problems or more direct guidance, consult a behaviorist or a trainer.

Now I want to hear from you!

  • Have you tried any of these techniques? What worked for you and what favorite pieces of advice can you share that may help others?
  • Leave a comment with ONE idea you learned that you’ll put into action today.

Remember to make your comment as specific and concrete as possible. Thank you, as always, for reading and for joining the discussion!

For you locals interested in learning more about introducing your dog to other visiting dogs, check us out in person! I will be speaking on the topic at CanineLink on May 19th.

Image by Bethany Fritz, Maypole Studios Photography

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Comments (13)

Trinidad Pena (@trinidad_pena)

Great tips! I have been a guest at houses where dogs almost knock you over at the door. I shall be fwding this post.

mindycrary (@mindycrary)

This is such great advice...one of my good friends owns a pet sitting business here in Seattle, and I learned that walking into a strange dog's home, it was smart to not make eye contact and sidle up sideways until the dog gets to know you a bit. HUGE help to me as I visit clients at home now, in my real work!

Christie Halmick (@JewelsBranch)

I'm going to give this a try with our pup and the tiny cousins who are coming over this weekend. They are a bit shy of the pup. She's not a jumper but she really likes to invade guests personal spaces. ;)

Ferris Jay

Great advice - it's a really clever idea to to talk to your guests about this BEFORE they come round and its a great way to find out of they are 'good' with dogs or nervous etc - rather than 'leaving it to chance'. I actually let my dog, Sally, out to greet the guests before they enter the house - once they get out of their car. That way, she'll just run out to them,run back to the door, bark a couple of times and roll over for belly rubs by the time they get inside :-)

claire gillenson

I also sometimes put the dog on a leash by my side and make her sit. It makes her feel more secure, perfect for those moments if you don't have a chance to tell the guest ahead of time.

jenner807

These are great tips! My little man Apollo (a beautiful rescue who looks like a mini black lab forever), is a jumper. He is kind and won't bark but he just loves love and wants you to pet him and cuddle the moment you walk through the door. We always have treats for guests, but I think it's important to remember that they react based on our behavior as well (back to the puppy training days) and I need to be calmer when I greet him daily as well. Thanks for this article! Love it!

Racel

Very helpful tips. Thanks for sharing such a nice article with valuable information.

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