Some dogs and cats welcome visitors to their home, while others may react with their own brand of company behavior. One cat might go into hiding and not come out until the visitor has gone. Another kitty may choose the one person who doesn’t like cats to use as a rubbing post.
Dale and Chip act as the perfect hostess and host when visitors arrive in their home.
Like Chip and Dale, we have a friend with a Westie boy named Colin who lives in Virginia. Trixie, one of his human companions says, "He actually thinks that everyone who comes to our door is coming to see him!!!" She supplied photos of Mr. Colin settled on the sofa with two of their guests.
Another dog might bark at everyone who comes near the door. Or a pup might become so excited about guests that submissive urination is a problem. Having had three Westies of our own and a number of foster dogs, my husband and I have dealt with a wide range of reactions.
Holiday season visitors and houseguests mean that some additional training and preparation now, may help in the month ahead.
Little Cooper, who stayed with us as a foster dog, decided that Penny needed protection from everyone.
Fear or Territorialism
Canines bark at visitors because they are afraid, because they are protecting their home, or may think they are protecting you.
Cooper was one of our foster dogs and from the moment Penny pulled him out of an animal control facility, he didn’t want anyone near her. We worked to make him understand that he had to share her and that she was not in any danger from the people we met on walks or those who visited us. Even after he was placed in his adoptive home, a volunteer from the rescue group worked with his new family to reinforce the training begun in our home.
A Very Poppy Welcome
Our current dog Poppy is a very anxious little creature who became so excited when some of her favorite people arrived in our home that she sometimes had a little “accident.” Our solution with such a small dog has been to pick her up and have her greet guests in our arms. We’ve also made an effort to have more people visit so she has more experience with company. That seems to be working.
A simple “sit” command can work wonders for a dog that barks at people or other dogs. The beauty of teaching a dog to sit and lie down, reliably upon request, is that you can reward this good action while cutting off the bad one. Consider asking a friend to come to the door a few times to practice the behaviors you want to reinforce.
"A sleeping dog is a good dog."
Even people who love your animals may not enjoy them as the center of attention throughout their visit. Sometimes you or another family member may need to take control of that cat who is winding herself around the legs of a guest. You may need to distract the dog that keeps bringing a toy to a guest asking for play.
Watch the guest and let them be your guide. When certain friends visit us, we know that playing with Poppy is part of the joy of their visit. Our friend Bill quickly joined Poppy on the floor for a tussle over a toy. But, in order for him to enjoy a glass of wine and a bit of food, Penny had to share her chair with Poppy and see that she didn’t bother him.
Company coming by is another time when the old adage, “A tired dog is a good dog,” is great applied wisdom. Take your dog for an extra long walk, spend half an hour playing fetch, or work on your obedience training in the hours before your company arrives. A cute dog snoozing in a corner is a perfect addition to any visit.
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Words: Penny Cherubino - Adapted for BostonZest from one of her City Paws newspaper columns.
Photos: ©2015 Penny & Ed Cherubino