With the holidays coming, many of us are facing having company over to our homes, and that can create many challenges with our dogs. For us, it mostly means Luke has to be separated from the household since he is fearful of most people, and a group of people can just be too overwhelming for him.
We recently had company for the weekend, and I must plan ahead for him when that’s going to happen. That’s when it’s important that we have Luke crate and leash trained. While just my one friend was here, things went well. He got to spend some time in his crate in the same room with her, and some time in our bedroom away from her. It went quite well while she was here, to the point that he did not even bark at her when she stopped at the gate to the bedroom and spoke to him. That is progress.
We’ve learned to take that progress slowly, so when a group of people came over while she was here, we kept him separate completely so as not to overwhelm. I checked on him often, giving him treats, and letting him outdoors into the overnight pen where he could still see the people but at a distance.
I used to put Cricket down in the bedroom with him, so he wouldn’t be lonely, but later decided he didn’t need her there. It would just make him jealous and snarly when I did go into the room, and he seems fine on his own. I felt it wasn’t fair to her, since she likes most people.
That is our biggest challenge when company comes over, and something we’re always working on and modifying the plan as we see how he does. Crates, gates, and leashes are our best tools, and we have a muzzle on hand as well, but so far haven’t tried that with company (he has never bitten anyone, and we want to keep it that way). He was great when he was in his crate with my friend in the room, he sat quietly and didn’t get upset when she moved around. It’s another step forward.
Now, with our beagle Cricket and all our past dogs before Luke free to be with company, we have things to think about. With all of our dogs, I’ve always worked on not letting them greet people by jumping on them, and not begging for food when people are eating. Begging is a pet peeve of mine, and something we have never allowed any of our dogs to do (not just for company but for every day).
Training doesn’t always have to be complicated and that, for the most part, has always been simple for us. From the day they come home, we never feed them from our table when we’re eating meals. It doesn’t take them long to learn by practice that if they sit and wait quietly, they will get a nibble of our meal and get to lick our plates as long as the foods are safe for them to eat. Then they get a dog treat after we pick up.
Things can be a little different when hubby or I are eating a meal on our own (which often happens with breakfast and lunch), or having a snack. Well, I should say they are different for hubby….he likes to occasionally share his crackers or other snack with them while he’s eating. I never do, however, and when I’m eating they are just sitting or lying closely nearby waiting patiently. Sometimes they might stare at us a bit, but that doesn’t bother me….as long as there is no jumping or whining, it’s all OK.
His breaking of the rules doesn’t seem to adversely affect their normal good manners though. Once in a while, Luke will come up and try to stick his nose in my plate, or give a little whine while sitting next to me. That’s mostly when I’m distracted doing something on my computer, and I’m done eating and haven’t given him my plate yet. I just have him sit or lie down for a minute before giving in, so he doesn’t learn that whining gets him what he wants.
All of this has worked quite well with all the dogs we’ve had; as long as we stick to the rules. I think it carries over to having company, at least as far as I know. Someone who was here recently might tell me otherwise if I just didn’t see it, but I think Cricket stuck to her manners. If one of our visitors starts giving them something, and subsequently gets bothered, well…..that’s their problem! Cricket seems to know the difference, and she hasn’t developed bad habits because of that.
Consistency is key to training, but I also don’t believe that a slip-up now and then sets things back all that much. Luke will try to break the rules every so often, but if we stick to our guns, he’s not going to all of the sudden forget everything he knows. Training can sometimes be easier than you think it might be.
How do your dogs behave when you have company over….have you trained them specifically to prevent unwanted behaviors at those times?
We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Pet bloggers, please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “Training manners for company”, however, you may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not!