Its my door

This is a step by step guide for dogs that jump on visitors when entering a property, bark excessively when door bell rings (or door knocked) or gets over excited at people entering.

The first stage is beginning a desensitisation period. The usual trigger for the above mentioned behaviours is a stimulus response to the knocking/ringing at your door. What our dogs learn is that when they hear a noise at the door we immediately answer, so in response to our reaction they do the same, only faster! This problem then escalates into extreme excitement before we even recognise that we have a problem.

To begin simply ask a family member or friend to knock/ring at your front door. Let your dog do his usual routine of responding but you do nothing, do not move to open the door, call your dog or correct them in anyway. After about a 30 second interval get you’re volunteer to repeat and you make no response. Continue to do this until your dog does not respond. Please note this can be time consuming but is essential as an initial step towards calm. One woof is allowed but the dog must move away from the door of free will and not be in a state of excitement. Once at this stage you are ready to move on. For future reference after the initial work this will have to be reinforced regularly until your dog understands that every time the door goes staying calm will get it opened quicker so I recommend popping a note on your door to say “dog in training please be patient”.

Stage two; ask your dog for a sit/stay a good distance from the door, we don’t want to put them off welcoming visitors! Once they are in this position approach door to answer. If at any point your dog gets up stop what you are doing and get your dog into a sit/stay. If you touch the door handle and they respond you stop get them to sit/stay, if you open the door and they respond shut the door and return to a sit/stay; this is why it is important that they are a good distance so they don’t get trapped in the door. When you can open the door and invite your guest in you can move onto the next stage. Please hold your dog in a sit/stay.

Stage three; when your guest comes in if your dog advances towards them get your guest to stop and turn their back, you should then get your dog by the collar (or house line if safer) and walk them away getting your guest to leave and repeat stage two through three again. What you are going to achieve here is in order for your dog to get the attention they desire is to remain calm. At this point if your dog approaches your guest calmly that is ok. If you do get a calm reaction or if your dog remains in sit/stay then you are ready to move onto the next stage.

Stage four; so now your guest can enter your home without excessive barking or excitement it’s time to back that up, if your dog remains calm sniffing at your guest that is ok, your guest can then pat your dog, make sure they do not use a high pitch voice encouraging your dog to get excited. If this is successful then a reward for the dog and you can now go about your business! If at any point your dog goes to jump on your guest ask your guest to turn their back on your dog giving your dog no attention at all for jumping, as soon as the jumping stops your dog can be asked to sit and then rewarded for remaining on the ground (the best reward in these circumstances is attention as that is what the dog is seeking).

You will have to repeat this as many times as it takes to get the response that you find desired. Please do not get frustrated or keep giving your dog verbal commands as this will only confuse them interfering with the ability to learn. If you have a dog that jumps & mouths ask your guest to keep their arms folded until the dog calms down. It will benefit you and your dog to practice this as often as you can to get the best results quicker. Please remember patience & consistency is the best tools for the job.

The power of positivity ©Image

Puppy social guide






Begin your puppy’s new life with your family by introducing him to the immediate & extended family. Learning him about his home environment, where he is sleeping / quite time to get away from the kids (crate). Make sure that your crate is put in a comfortable spot; a happy medium is the best, not too quite a place but equally not too busy a place.

Getting him used to all the family members especially the children will familiarise him with all of you. Giving him his own space increases his security, creates a routine and decreases the chances of separation issues in the future.

8- Completion of vaccinations.


Although your puppy is not yet immunised you must begin to get him used to the sights and sounds of the outside world in which he lives. Wrap him in a blanket or a papoose and take him to the park(never let him down), a walk along the street and on a school run allowing people and children to say hello without making too much fuss. The object is to allow him to experience these things in a positive manner not too scare him.

If you leave the introduction to the wider world until after the completion of vaccinations (approx. 12 to 14 weeks old) your puppy may be quite fearful of the sound of traffic, bikes, noisy children etc. He may also be afraid of interactions with strangers.

8- 12

Not only should you have your puppy display good manners to the people within your family you must get him comfortable with visitors coming to your home.

Ask as many of your friends to come around (try keeping them away) to visit your new addition. Make sure you have plenty of treats, for both your dog & the visitors, so your puppy learns to greet people correctly. Make sure when he receives a visitor he adopts the sit position before being rewarded and petted.

It is important that your puppy realises that people will visit your home. In getting him to greet correctly will reduce the future adolescent dog jumping all over your visitors mouthing them etc. Bad dog manners are enough to put you off asking friends around or indeed people wanting to visit you.


Hopefully you haven’t purchased a puppy to leave at home whilst you go to work for 12 hours a day! But you have to get him used to being left alone for short periods at first. Make sure he has toileted and is happy, put him into his crate without any fuss, leave him a Kong filled with some of his dried kibble and leave a radio or TV on for background noise. Go and do some grocery shopping or any other task you need to perform but do not leave him for more than an hour at a time, build this time up gradually over the next four weeks but never for more than 3 hours at this age. If you are planning to use a dog walker in the future it might be an idea to introduce him to them now.

During this stage of development it is essential that your puppy is not left for hours on end alone, apart from the need to be fed & go the toilet dogs are companion animals and hate being left alone for too long. If however you plan to be around most of the time a situation will arise in the future when you have to go out. Getting your puppy used to these situations at the age prevents problems in the future. If you are using a dog walker get them to come to your home and visit for a pee/play break, make sure they wash their hands before touching your puppy!


Make sure you play and interact with your puppy often during the day. Playing with toys together not only helps his development and your bond together but gives you an opportunity to begin training commands like not biting your hand, use your mouth on the toy instead! Whilst you are interacting together you can groom and check your puppy all over, paws, eyes, mouth & ears. Get all the members of your family & friends to do the same.

Playing is very important. It is how dogs & indeed humans learn one another’s limitations. Handling your puppy is essential to get him used to being touched in a positive manner where he wouldn’t normally expect to be touched. You must prepare him for vet trips where he may have a sore ear which within itself is a bad enough experience but if he was never taught for a human to touch him there will make the trip a far worse one for him and the vet.


The car- The first experience your puppy would have had (possibly) of a car journey would be leaving his litter to begin his new life with you. Try to make a few short positive trips before his next journey to the vet for his first vaccinations. Make sure he has an empty tummy to minimise being sick. If he appears distressed you don’t have to drive anywhere just sit in the car for a little while gradually building up time until you can move. If he is fine make the journeys short followed by a little play to let him associate a trip in the car with good things, it is a good idea to recruit help so he is not alone whilst you drive.

One of the great plus points of having a dog is day trips with the family to the beach or out in the countryside for a good day out and picnic. Essentially in order to get these places you have to travel. Getting a dog used to car journeys whilst they are young builds up a positive association to car journeys and prevents travel sickness.


Now your puppy is ready to go out walks get him used to walking on leash, it is unrealistic to expect him to “walk to heel” as soon as you venture out but essential that you begin leash manners. Use treats to keep him at your side as much as possible always using a treat/reward system, walking beside you should be a good thing but if you are constantly jerking on his neck he will inevitably not see at as pleasure. Make sure that he generalises his welcoming strangers into your home in the correct manner by sitting not jumping when outside. Get strangers to greet him by asking for a sit then treat & praise rather than encouraging or allowing him to jump up.

All too often I see members of the public being walked by their puppies and thinking that they will grow into in walking beside them. Consistency from the first day would be far better for both dog and owner. Walking a dog is of the best points of being a dog owner and it should be a joy rather than a task. Also in my own experience your puppy jumps up and you attempt to lure him into a sit asking people to give him a treat for sitting (that I will happily supply) they generally answer “it’s ok I don’t mind he is only young” It makes me want to scream, you won’t say that in four months time when my large dog gets muddy paws all over your coat. CONSISTENCY from day one!


Find a good puppy class and get started. Don’t wait from problems to occur and then call a professional to help you; prevention is far greater than a cure.

Even if you have had a puppy before the benefits from attending a class are huge. Your puppy will be allowed to socialise with dogs of a similar age as well as learn new things. The guidance from a good professional will help you pin point problems before they becoming rooted and you as an owner get to socialise with other owners that you will potentially meet when out on a walk.


Extending time alone. Your puppy should now be more than happy to be left for a while alone. You can start extending this and also if you are using a dog walker he will be going out with them also.

Again it is essential if you are to have a normal life to get your puppy used to being left. Do not only do it during the day but also introduce an evening (not is they have been left during that day for a period of time). This gets your dog used to all scenarios.


Out in the park. You should be taking your puppy lots of different walks, do not be tempted to go too far as they are still young and tire easily. When you are introducing your puppy to other dogs make sure that they are safe. Do not let your young dog off the leash to run around like a maniac greeting every tom, dick & harry. Take your puppy to the dogs and make sure that the other dog and owner are comfortable with the situation.

Other owners know there dogs (or should) so you have to check that is safe for your puppy to meet them. You will not only be keeping your puppy from being potentially harmed but also teaching him proper etiquette. Again waiting until he is adolescent and thinking he will grow out of it is very naive. This is when most social problems can begin through no fault of your puppy; again prevention is better than cure.


You must continue to play with your puppy both at home and when outside. This will teach them about not getting too excited and help with the puppy biting. If they are hell bent on biting you rather than the toy say “ouch!” and end the game for a few minutes by walking away. Always return to see if they got it.


I find playing and interacting with them outside prevents them from running off to find something far more interesting than you!


By now you should be able to venture further afield. You’re now “young dog” should not be jumping on people when they meet and also socialising with other canines correctly. Make sure that you are not always doing the same walks and meeting the same people, you must challenge your puppy. Taking him to different places sometimes in the car, makes for a far more exciting life for both of you. You should be doing lots of stimulating things, practicing recalls, playing with a ball, doing sits & stays outside and even playing hide & seek together. You should also every now and again return him to the leash for a little time out and a calm walk, always let him go again so that he doesn’t learn that by putting on the leash means we are going home, he will quickly cease to come back.

It is really important as your puppy enters adolescence to make each and every walk interesting. Training never ends and every walk should be an opportunity to fine tune skills.


A trip to the vet should not always be for treatment. Take your dog to the vet simply to pop your head in the door, you can always buy a chew or a bag of biscuits or ask for your dog to be weighed. Most vets would welcome first your custom and the fact that you are making trips to vets easier.

I have done this with all my puppies and I now have grown dogs that will happily let a vet handle them at their sorest point, I am delighted that they behave so well they are on the blood donor scheme helping other dogs when needed and they don’t mind a bit!


The socialisation of your puppy is very important. You must however recognise that how you go about this differs from breed to breed and individual to individual. Some breeds are naturally wary of strangers whilst others are very welcoming to anyone. Akitas for example are renowned for their protectiveness and their devotion to family members. Keeping that in mind they will more than likely require early socialisation with strangers both into your home and whilst outside to help desensitise that side of them on the other hand a Flat-coated Retriever is more than happy to meet and greet anyone so they will require more training in not becoming over excited when welcoming people. Along with breed there are individual concerns, some puppies are very confident and will require you as their owner to not allow them to attempt to take over situations as they could be a nuisance to others (both people and dogs) and other puppies are far more introverted, perhaps even fearful which will then require you to be much more gentle and understanding when introducing them to new situations, over eagerness on your part could make them far worse.

Puppies that are under socialised will inevitably find all new situations difficult. They will become very fearful which can unfortunately lead to aggression. If you miss out getting them used to people at an early age will make them impossible to be handled by anyone. When that puppy has to go the vets for example he will probably require a muzzle to prevent him from biting and he will be petrified. If you do not allow them to socialise correctly with other dogs your puppy could be overly friendly and overly boisterous making dogs wary and perhaps aggressive towards him, which in turn could make him aggressive. Again the other side of the coin he could be very nervous and fearful perhaps nipping other dogs for getting too close or running away whenever he sees another canine. All these situations will make taking your dog anywhere an almost military task. I personally have witnessed a couple walking their dog about 200 yards apart with a walkie talkie making sure the coast is clear. Absolutely ludicrous behaviour. Easily prevented with proper socialisation.

Socialisation is a tight rope, you can for some dogs never do enough whilst others too much. Always make sure your dog is listening to you and he is comfortable with whatever you are introducing to him before proceeding.

it’s only natural

There are many natural behaviours that a dog displays; these behaviours are rooted in their ancestry and have been used by humans for many many years. Some are obvious and some are subtle whilst others are not useful (to us) at all. Dogs are natural predators “Left to revert to natural behaviour, the domestic dog becomes the Dingo.” (1). Although we , as humans, have selectively bred over the years to suppress the kill instinct there are many of the natural hunt instincts that are very useful to us.
Dogs in a natural environment would be required to feed themselves using searching, tracking and stalking. Then they would have to chase and kill and sometimes take their prey to a safer location to consume. Although dogs are no longer required to do this as we as owners feed them they have rewarded our kindness by allowing us to use their natural skills to help with all sorts of modern living tasks. It is easy to observe a litter of young pups and see them displaying and perfecting these techniques through play, chasing one another, pinning, biting, tugging and shaking.
Hunting, stalking and tracking are all exploited by man in lots of different forms. Dogs will begin by picking up the scent of something, whether it is a rabbit, a squirrel, a missing person or drugs. For the use of hunting they can smell the ground or even pick up the scent on the air. They will follow that scent and instead of killing it flush it out as Spaniels do, or alert a human to the whereabouts of the scent displayed by Pointers, Setters and Labradors. This has been useful in past years for humans to catch food but now is used in gun sports. There are dogs that are used to find humans, criminal or missing using the same smell-track-alert system, again useful following natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis and terrorist activities like the 9/11 disaster or in Afghanistan. Dogs can even detect explosives, drugs and more recently cancers with a great success rate, happy to go into places humans couldn’t even imagine seeing themselves.
The stalking behaviour can begin with sight rather than smell as we see in our herding dogs, still used frequently on farms to herd sheep and cattle. Humans certainly could not perform this tiring task with the eagerness and precision that collies do. After a dog has located his prey whether it is smell or visual he may then chase, this is something that is oppressed in gun dogs, but collies are definitely encouraged to chase their prey, also Greyhounds in the popular sport of racing. Dogs love to chase, they will do this willingly and get serious enjoyment out of it. Owners though must be cautious of the downside to chasing. Dogs will chase anything so care has to be taken that they do not direct this natural behaviour on joggers, cars, children etc. These sort of behaviours are wrong, not to the dog, but to society. The dog will view this as just as much fun as a work out in agility or flyball but they are dangerous to both dog and prey!
The scent tracking is a far more specialised task. Dogs have around 220 million scent receptors and smell is their primary sense. Any dog owner can see the brain power a dog puts into an interesting smell, food smells, other dogs urine scent ( territorial marking ), anal & genital sniffing or simply if you’ve been out for a while the third degree you receive when you return! These are all behaviours which average dogs must do. Humans have utilised and exploited this sense of smell by specialised training to perform the tasks mentioned earlier.
Another frequently seen and used behaviour is retrieving, our dogs love to chase a ball and bring it back for it to be thrown again. Labradors do this with very little encouragement and much joy. It is not a man made attribute but a natural one, this comes directly once again from their wolf cousins where they will carry food back to their young. This natural behaviour is an absolute essential in gundogs, they will do the scenting, and tracking and either point or flush. The handler will execute the kill and send the dog to retrieve the game. Service dogs for the blind or handicapped can be specially trained to bring items to their owners or indeed pick things up and tidy. As beautifully demonstrated by Joanne & her dog Kaiser at this year’s Crufts. Dogs will not only carry food back for their young but may also regurgitate food for them; this behaviour is still practiced by some Dams but very rarely any other time. A puppy will lick the mouth areas of their mother to stimulate her to regurgitate, perhaps this is what our dogs are trying to do when they lick our faces. This behaviour is of no use to humans what so ever. Sometimes food is carried and then hidden; my female Rhodesian Ridgeback will spend ten minutes attempting to conceal a raw hide chew in a wooden floor or with more success in a sheepskin rug. Some dogs bury bones, this again is an instinct from their ancestors where wolves will hide food for later consumption, very few domestic dogs return and dig what they have hidden back up probably due to the fact that they are well nourished and there is no need for this squirrel like behaviour. Digging is not only used to hide food but sometimes to find a cool spot to lie, Huskies and malamutes are evidence of this. Some dogs are digging for prey, especially terrier breeds who are keen ratters, some females will dig a den to have their puppies in, a behaviour which wolves do and some dogs, much to our frustration dig for the sheer fun of it!
The other behaviour which may be cause for complaint is barking. Barking has evolved way beyond wolf howls. “Barking is used by the dog as a rough means of communication” (2). They will bark as an invitation to play or for attention. Guarding breeds are used for warning that intruders are approaching and they can be a very good deterrent for a prospective burglar, many people hear an alarm and ignore it, but who could ignore a Rottweiler or Doberman? Not only useful for protecting property but also livestock. However nuisance barking is a different vocalisation all together, dogs are not in their natural environment and increasingly in our modern society become much stressed as their needs are not being met, this can lead to constant barking as an outlet for that stress. Another way of a dog getting a good stress-buster is chewing. Chewing is something a wolf must practice in order to eat, our dogs are no different. They love to chew so give then something safe to chew and they will leave your shoes, furniture, socks etc alone. Dogs need to chew to clean their teeth and exercise the jaw, a good work out keeps their mouths healthy. I love a Friday night glass of white wine; it’s my wind-down, I always equate that to my dogs view on chewing. Although chewing is not useful to humans it is essential for dogs, look at the behaviours above that we use, surely they are allowed one all to themselves? A reward for being man’s best friend………this leads me to the last natural behaviour of the canine, the one that compromises the title, Guarding food. This is of no use at all and in fact the cause of many dog/human fall outs. This behaviour is a natural instinct of survival, “In the wild, an animal often has to compete with others to get enough to eat.” (3) caution then should be taken in multiple dog families. Prevention of food guarding is better than cure, always have your dog understand that if it is given up willingly it will either be returned or rewarded.
My personal belief as a dog lover is all their behaviours with the exception of food guarding is either necessary to them or useful to us, too often humans exploit what they need and discard the needs of others. This is no different when it comes to our dogs. Why are they barking? Why are they chewing the skirting boards? The answer is always the same. They are either bored or stressed, cater for the needs of your dog and he will reward you tenfold!