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Get Control of the Door

By Todd Langston (Click the link for video explanation)

Creating a door greeting so your guests don't get overwhelmed by your dog.

I have entered over 2,000 homes helping people with their dogs so I have seen every possible technique humans use at the front door to get their dog(s) calm and under control. I think the most popular technique is yelling....lots of yelling.  I have been jumped on, humped, bit, growled at and once I slipped and fell on a dog which prompted a full blown attack.  Fortunately the dog had a muzzle so no harm but it just goes to show what can happen when the humans pay the mortgage but the dogs own the house.

Dogs are wired to be protective and territorial of their space so its natural and normal for them to bark at someone coming in to your home.  Barking isn’t a problem as long as you set rules, boundaries and limits on how long they can bark and how excited they can be once someone enters.

One reason the door is such a challenge for many owners is based in how they act and feel when someone comes to the door.  I most commonly see owners get frustrated, nervous and embarrassed which “tells” the dogs that whatever is knocking must be bad because of how it is making the humans feel.  This puts the dogs on more of an edge which makes the humans more emotional which makes the dogs more edgy and so on...and only the human can break this cycle.


Before you start I suggest exercising your dog and I also suggest attaching a leash to your dog during the practice.  Using a leash is a calm, clear way to guide your dog.  You are literally walking them through the steps of this and it helps make your direction more clear.

To start have someone go outside and knock on the door or ring the bell.  Most dogs charge the door and bark.  I am a huge fan of dogs barking at door as long as the owners can get the dogs to stop, back up and calm down.  Here is how you do it:

1. You must approach the door calmly and with confidence.  Moving slow displays calm while walking with your head up and shoulders back displays confidence.  Your dog wants John Wayne to answer the door not Willy Wonka.  The slower you move the calmer and more confident you appear to your dog which “tells” them everything is safe.  When the human acts nervous, frustrated or apathetic it sends the message that door greetings can be scary shit so the dog doesn’t know what to do once people enter.

2. When you are a few feet from the dogs I suggest making a sound to redirect the dogs energy and attention away from the door to you.  This tells them its time to follow your direction.  If they stop and look at you take them by leash and walk the dog away from the door with confidence and purpose and put them in a “place” 10+ feet away from the door and wait for them to calm.  Do not use words at this point.  (If your dog can’t sit still you can step on the leash until they calm or you can tie the leash to something heavy to anchor them.  If your dog does not stop barking you may need a tool like Pet Corrector or even a no-bark collar to get them to stop and pay attention).

3. Keep them in their “place” until they are calm.  This is very, very important and will take a good amount of time the first few times you practice.  Once the dogs are calm you can answer the door but correct and replace the dogs when/if they get up.  Wait for them to calm and continue.

4. Only allow people to enter when the dogs are calm.  Once inside make sure your guests follow the no touch, no talk, no eye contact mantra until the dogs are calm.  Most dogs will get excited once the people enter but keep returning them to their place and wait until they are calm.  Stay at it until they give up - they will, I promise.   Use the leash for all of this because it allows you to stay a step ahead.  You can also use the leash to correct a dog if they try to jump.  After the dogs settle you can drop the leash and let things happen naturally.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

These steps create a clear understanding of what you want from your dog. and it limits their options to practice unwanted behaviors.  If you just let someone come in your home and correct your dog for misbehaving you are not communicating what you want them to do so they never stop the bad behaviors.  

Follow these 5 steps and I promise you will have a calmer, more respectful greeting ritual this year with your guests.  Good luck.

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