How to Keep Your Dog’s Four on the Floor with Visitors at the Door

With the holiday season fast approaching, we need to make sure our dog’s manners are as good as the Thanksgiving turkey. An ill-mannered dog can be just as stressful as getting ready for visitors, and one of the top three problems we hear about from clients is their dog jumping up to greet people at the door. We want them to be happy to see friends and family…but not too happy!

There are multiple reasons why our dogs jump up: it can be their way of saying hello, it can be a display of stress or frustration, or it can be their way of getting your attention. No matter the reason, we can always help communicate to our dogs what we would like them to do instead of jumping up.

No one wants their rambunctious pup knocking over grandma when she comes over to visit. It’s not only a bad habit but also a safety issue. You can use these tips anywhere your dog meets people - in the home, on the trail or walking downtown. It’s always good to have proper greeting manners.

Tip 1 A good way to help your dog learn proper greeting skills is to help them stay calm and under threshold during meet and greets with people. To prevent them from shooting over threshold, train them to offer an appropriate behavior, such as a sit or lay down. By giving them a simple alternative behavior like a sit instead of jumping, you can reinforce the behavior you want. You can achieve this a few ways; you can ask your dog for a sit before they meet someone or you can have the person they are meeting ask them for a sit. If they do not perform the task you asked of them, they don't get to meet that person.

Tip 2 Ask people to wait to greet your dog until she is calm and polite. By giving your dog a chance to calm down, you help diffuse an overzealous greeting. If your dog gets attention for staying calm and being appropriate, they will realize jumping up and acting out doesn't get them anything.

Tip 3 When it comes to dogs jumping up on people in doorways, it can become an unwanted traffic jam in no time. A great way to help your dog understand that meetings don't happen at the door is to have your guests not greet them until you are in a bigger more appropriate area.

Tip 4 A great way to get everyone on board with helping you train your dog is to leave a note on the outside of your door where people can see it before entering your home. This is a good way to make sure everyone is on the same page and there is consistency for your dog. The note should say how and when to greet your dog, “Please help me with Fluffy’s training! When you come in, do not greet her in the entryway. Please wait to pay attention to her until you are in the family room. Thanks!”

Tip 5 If you find yourself in the middle of an inappropriate greeting such as getting jumped on, cross your arms across your chest (up and away from the dog,) stay calm, quiet and turn your back to the dog. You are essentially giving them the butt. By ignoring all frantic behavior, the dog doesn't get anything out of it, not even a rise out of you. When dealing with any type of overstimulation, it’s important that you do not add any additional stimulation to the situation.

Once the dog has calmed down, turn back around and ask for an appropriate behavior before they get the chance to try jumping up again. If you do not give them an alternative behavior, they might try what’s easy… which is jumping up.

Tip 6 It’s important to recognize that not all people are greeted as equals in the mind of a dog. We call this the “Grandma card,” meaning that some people are higher value in your dog’s eyes, and it could be more difficult for your dog to calm down or act calm around these people.

Tip 7 Make sure to give treats to reinforce the behaviors you want your dog to do. Setting up your house for success could be as easy as keeping a treat jar in the living room, easily accessible to guests so when Fluffy offers a calm sit away from the door, she gets a treat right away. Capturing and reinforcing good behavior is always easier than trying to fix an unwanted behavior.

Hopefully with these tips your only stressor during the holidays will be not burning the rolls!


Amber Pickren BA, CPDT-KA Amber with her dogs
Amber is owner of GentleCanineLLC. After earning her bachelors in Psychology, Amber found her passion working with dogs and has never looked back. Since 2004, she has been training dogs, specializing in behavioral issues. When she's not busy helping other pet parents with their dogs, she can be found running and climbing around Durango with Sadie, Lily and Imogene.