I am a big believer in “Train it before you need it” to ensure that good behavior lasts year-round, and that you and your inquisitive canine are prepared. Similar to school children practicing fire drills before there’s an actual fire, rehearse behaviors you’re likely to need before you ask your dog to perform them.
When I have company over, I may ask the following things of my canine companion:
- Greet people (and other dogs) politely at the door: Teach your dog to sit or stand to greet guests.
- Chill out quietly in a specific location: Sometimes my guests want time to themselves, so I ask my dog to “Sit” or “Stay” in locations such as near the front door, living room, in the kitchen area and/or outside.
- Leave things alone when asked: Dogs are scavengers and enjoy hunting and gathering as much as humans. Dogs do what works for them, so if you leave food lying around, it’s fair game to your dog! Teach your dog to leave items when asked.
- Coming when called: Just in case someone isn’t familiar with your house rules or you get sidetracked and leave a door or gate open.
Manage, Manage, Manage!
If you’re really busy and don’t have the time to train your dog, then I’d suggest you opt for plan B: Manage your dog and/or his or her surroundings, whether at home or out and about. This means setting up barriers and boundaries to help create an environment in which your furry friend isn’t able to practice unwanted behaviors. (’Cause every time they practice, they get better at it!)
For example, if your dog hasn’t yet been taught to leave things alone when asked, make sure to keep any tempting items out of reach!
As another example, if your dog hasn’t been taught to greet people and other dogs politely at the door, it might be best for you to either have your dog on a leash, or sequester him or her to another location while you escort friends and family inside. If you choose to sequester your dog, pick a place where he or she can hang out that is safe but still fun and rewarding. In other words, create a playground for your dog, not a dungeon.
To create an area of recreation while avoiding time out situations, make sure your dog has enrichment — such as interactive food toys or chew bones, along with water — at his or her disposal. This way, your dog will actually look forward to hanging out in his or her “fun zone.” Once you have a break and everyone has settled in, then you’ll be more relaxed to bring your dog out to meet the guests.
The more well-mannered and manageable your pooch is, the more he or she can be included in the lives of their humans!