Tip of the Month

3/14/2011 The Greeting Spot

As many dog trainers will tell you, having a dog of your own makes you an amateur dog trainer to a certain degree. It is up to the owner to introduce what they would consider appropriate behaviors. The subject to be covered now is how to teach your dog the appropriate behaviors of using a “greeting spot”.

A “greeting spot” is the area that you prefer your dog to be within when any doors in the house are opened. This behavior is most useful when guests come over. Whether the door is opening for the owner and their family or for guests, we would choose to have the dog calm and not showing actions that could be considered disruptive.

Creating a “greeting spot” for your dog will help with many different aspects of dog training. It can be used to help teach new obedience cues such as sit, down, and stay. It can also help to curb what many would consider problem behaviors like jumping or running out an open door.

Before beginning the introduction of the “greeting spot”, there are a few pre-requisites to consider. You’ll need to make the area comfortable for the dog. If the dog is not comfortable in his “greeting spot”, there is a less likely chance this training will be successful when the door opens. Good items to place in the “greeting spot” would be your pup’s favorite dog bed or blanket.

The idea is to make the “greeting spot” more rewarding for the dog than running to the door would be. It will be the dog’s determination of what he finds the most rewarding, so always keep in mind the things your dog is most interested in. In most cases the best reward to a dog will be a certain type of edible treat.

The next thing to consider would be what area of your home would make the best permanent “greeting spot”. Make sure that it is far enough from any door to ensure your dog can focus better on you and the idea of the reward more than what will be happening at the door. Keep in mind, when choosing the “greeting spot”; it should be close enough to something that you can tether your dog to. This ensures your dog will be kept in place when first introduced to it. Good examples would be a door knob or a heavy table leg. This way, the dog will not have the option to leave the area.

After you are able to find a high value reward for your pooch, you can begin introducing the sit, down, and stay behaviors. These cues will be needed while introducing him to the “greeting spot”.

Now it’s time to set up a training scenario to introduce the required behavior. With the dog tethered to its area, in the down position, have a family member or friend ring the doorbell. In the beginning it would be normal for the dog to still stand and bark in the direction of the door. While first introducing the ringing doorbell it’s not necessary to have anyone enter the door.

Have the handler lure the dog into the sit and then into the down position. Remember to reward and praise the dog as soon as he assumes the appropriate position. Once the dog can remain positioned in his area and respond to the handler’s cues at least 90 of the requested time you can begin having the person enter the home after ringing the doorbell. The visitor can also approach the dog and ask for the sit / stay behavior. Make sure that they are able to properly reward the dog when he falls into position. Continue to do the exercise over multiple times until the dog can again perform the behavior at least 90 of the time.

It is important to always stay consistent with following through on positioning the dog when guests arrive outside of the training scenarios. If you can continuously have the dog in its greeting area and make it more rewarding than barking at the door it offers a great chance of success that the dog will automatically go to its area as soon as it hears the door bell or door open in the future.

Important Things to Remember:

Reward the dog for any correct action in the right direction. If you’re able to make the correct behavior more rewarding than acting out it is more likely to be repeated in the future.

Have a comfortable area close to an object that the dog can be tethered to. If the dog is uncomfortable it may choose to stand without lying down. It is important to set the dog up to succeed.

Don’t work beyond the dog’s capabilities. It is better to introduce things slowly and work on it until the dog is successful a majority of the time. If the dog continues to bark when someone enters, go back to only having someone knock or ring the door bell. Once the dog can show success you can begin to introduce the entering person again.

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