Having a guest over to the house sucks.

Having a guest over to the house sucks. 

Have you ever said that? Is it a doorbell issue?

Many years ago, my wife and I had a regular practice that looked something like this:

“Okay okay, you go outside, ring the doorbell, and I’ll make sure Jake (our Australian Shepard) stays on his bed,” I said, praying with fingers crossed.

My wife responds: “Should I go outside from the garage or the back door? 

I say: “Garage!”

Wife replies: “Ok, I’ll walk around outside and then come back? Knock once, or you’ll tell me when to stop knocking? Do we knock a few times?”

What Melissa was really thinking was: “I never wanted this dog, my husband is an asshole. Oh and he’s selfish, and it’s freezing outside, and this shit isn’t working!”


Jake starts whining, shaking, darting his eyes around, thinking - then pauses, then can’t resist and starts to charge the door. I say “kick it!” (his ‘go to bed’ command) and pushed the magic button on my Dogtra e-collar 280NCP (sad emoji) letting him know that’s not what I like buddy. I followed all the instructions from the trainer we used at the time, and I followed them dutifully. 

Then I said: “Ring it again hun.” 

We struggled for months trying to do what the trainer taught us. It didn’t get better. Now I understand why.

Our relationship was filled with anger. My wife wanted to strangle me for taking this project on (ever been there?) and I am supposed to be learning how to do this professionally.

Are you suffering from this problem? Practice… practice… practice… and nothing. 

You are putting the time in. No bullshit.

You got your fancy elevated Kuranda bed, your treats with the pouch (you know, the fancy one with the magnet so none drop out), maybe an e-collar, your leash dragging on a fancy collar, clicker in hand watching intently, all the right terminology from the last seminar you attended. And with all that even thoughyou were promised it would work, it doesn’t. Well that sucks. Ask for your money back.

Like I said, I’ve been there, too. Congratulate yourself for your effort, but it’s time to try something else. 

I’m going to explain why it isn't working for you. It’s a lot less complicated than you think. 

Where dog problems start: owners expecting dogs to be born with the knowledge of how to “be” in a human world regardless of the owners misconstrued input, and that training will fix everything. 

Let’s dive into the 3 things I ask clients to stop doing. You may be surprised!

1 - Bed/Down stays - dogs do not stay in one place when they are curious, excited, dominant (or many of the reasons we ask them to), yet these are all the reasons people validate the use of this popular maneuver. 

Dogs lay down when they are tired, being submissive to another dog, stalking prey, or when they are having a wrestle fest with their besties. 

If a dog is having an intense reaction to the door, why would laying on a bed make sense to them as a way to change his emotional response to the stress? Remember it’s an emotional problem. He’s excited, that doesn’t mean ‘lay down’ to him at that moment. They aren’t feeling that. Imagine telling a kid on Christmas Eve to calm down and go to sleep. Relax Johnny. Yeah right. 

Bed stays, from what I have learned and experienced, are just a deceptive technique humans use (hoping the dog falls for it) to control a situation when the owner feels emotions like uncertainty, weakness, anxiousness, or fearfulness. They are hoping and praying training will help solve their dog’s emotional problems. Putting your dog on a bed is avoiding the problem, and doesn’t make sense to the dog at that moment. Beds are options for comfort (mine lay on the couch), not ways to avoid socialization problems.

2 - Socialize the shit out of them. What your dog needs will probably be different than someone else reading this, so it would be foolish to give advice. Different dogs need different things, obviously. Your reaction to stress is different than mine and they are no different. 

Think about: What are your dog’s intentions? Are they just rambunctious, looking to burst out at any moment, or charging and barking scaring Aunt Nay Nay to death? 

What in particular will happen? Have you ever let it happen to see what the dog will actually do? Is it always being avoided because of the fear of what if this happens or this happens? 

Dogs need to learn how to make sense of the things they will encounter with you in everyday life. Learning what to do with the stress they are feeling at that moment is important. If they make a poor choice you need to have the correct answer for them right away. You need to be able to tell them what you don’t like at the same time giving them what they need to socialize with the stimulant. And most importantly what direction they should move (if or when) they feel stress. Going forward toward the stimulant (the door) or going away from it. Prey (being thoughtful) or predator (being bold and dominant).

3 - Understanding that dogs stay away from danger-

Dogs naturally stay away from danger. It’s in their DNA. Have you ever dropped something or opened an umbrella too fast and your dog jumped back? That’s natural. That’s stay away from danger. Most owners spend lots of time teaching the opposite feeling to their dog with the games and actions we share with them. Then later, we are surprised when a dog does something forward and dominate in their environment, for example - charge the door. Forward and dominant. Where did that come from? Ummm duh. It came from his coping skills toolbox. What have you taught them?

If we tap into the natural instincts of the dog they should be staying away from danger not moving towards it. That’s why fear aggression is interesting. If the dog is truly fearful he would run away from danger, so why does he go forward? It’s learned similar to the door. 

Here is a short video of Gracie learning there is danger at the front door. This was her second time. People spend months teaching this and waiting for calm (and all that nonsense) when all you have to do is make the dog feel what you want. It’s in them already.

Gracie made a shift from feeling too powerful and moving forward (thinking: I’m a tiger in in this world - here I go!) - to taking that same commitment and using it in a different way. That’s the way nature programs animals, if they didn't have that, they would be dead from being too bold.

What can be learned can be unlearned, but it has to be done in the way dogs understand. 

Do you struggle to have guests over? 

Head rubs and belly Scratches