Flat-Coated RetrieverWhen I arrived, the young lady held onto Brodie’s collar as she opened the front door. At my request she let go and the very excited young Flat-Coated Retriever was jumping all over me, He nipped my arm and grabbed my clothes. A little later he leapt up and punched my face with his nose and as I walked about he grabbed onto my jeans.

There is absolutely no malice whatsoever in eight-month-old Brodie. He was obviously very excited to see me – as he is anyone else who comes to the door, from delivery man to family -they don’t have a lot of callers. Many people would say that a dog’s level of excitement is due to sheer joy to see someone. I have my doubts.

A human parallel could be a woman who opens her door to someone she may not know well and immediately hugs and kisses them, breathlessly asking if they want cake or tea or a tour of the garden or do they need the toilet, whilst breaking off for more hugs. I would call this person friendly, maybe, but the overriding emotion anxiety.

The young lady is a first-time dog owner and one of the things she called me for was to train Brodie to ‘greet people calmly’ at the front door.

There is only one room downstairs in the cottage and she can’t trust him out of her sight. He’s a tall boy now and little is out of his reach! She has a dog pen which acts as a second room – a Brodie den – where he sleeps at night and where she leaves him when out at work – and he is perfectly happy in there (she has a webcam and checks on him).

While Brodie is feeling so aroused it would be hard to teach him to behave in a calm way. His behaviour at the front door needs working on at the emotional level. A dog can’t be trained in this heightened state. The situation needs to be physically managed for now so he simply is unable to get to the front door to greet people in this way. He needs more people coming and going and the young lady is going to enlist some of her friends.

Meanwhile she will make a training game of Brodie going in and out of his den – entering when he hears is a knock. This can start with her knocking on something near to the pen, then working her way to the inside of the front door, before opening the door and knocking from outside. The plan also is for the lady to reassure Brodie she is there to look after him and it’s her job to take control of people entering, not Brodie’s.

Because Brodie will be in his den whenever she opens the door now, she can then instruct the person on how they should behave also!

Brodie was learning that sitting brought the rewards

Brodie was learning that sitting brought the rewards

If Brodie is allowed to calm down before coming out he will be in a better state of mind for learning the sort of behaviour which is rewarding to him, which won’t be the current jumping and grabbing kind of behaviour. With me, he was learning that this brought no attention at all (it was hard!) but that sitting down politely, standing beside me calmly and eventually lying down were the actions that were rewarding – with food. This had to be dropped in silence because anything more simply started him off again!

The young lady has worked hard on Brodie’s training since she got him at eight weeks old and they have achieved a lot. Sometimes training alone isn’t enough though.

The ultimate aim is for a calmer Brodie, when someone is at the door, to settle in a special place outside of his den but away from the front door.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Brodie, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than goodo. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs.