It’s all about the build-up.

Cocker Spaniel Mackie is three years old. He is lively, excitable and friendly.

The couple have their two adult daughters living nearby. One has a toddler and the other a baby.

Their problem is that Mackie becomes frantically excited when family calls. Excitement builds up as through the window he watches them walk up the path to the door. Then they ring the bell.

The people enter the house

They have taught Mackie to run up the stairs which are by the front door when the bell rings. They then shut a gate at the bottom of the stairs. He is already very excited and barking.

The daughter and family enter and are welcomed in. Mackie is beside himself. The gentleman tries to calm Mackie down as they sort themselves out and chat.

Then he opens the gate.

Frantically excited, Mackie bombs in to where they are sitting.

He flies all over and up behind them, grabbing clothes, barking. It’s like he just doesn’t know what to do with himself. They then give him something to chew.

They say they have tried to get him to sit. This is a bit like telling a lottery winner, on learning he’s a millionaire, to sit down and be calm! Impossible.

Getting Mackie calmer with callers coming to the house isn’t in isolation. It can’t be plucked out of the air, unconnected with other areas of over-arousal in his life. The gentleman will temper his own wild greetings when the couple come back home after going out.


The plan now is to desensitise Mackie to the doorbell so he’s not already aroused when the person comes in. For the same reason they will block his view out of the window.

As soon as the person comes in, there will be no hanging about. Quickly they will walk past Mackie behind the gate on the stairs and go and sit down.

Meanwhile, the gentleman will be putting a lead on Mackie (his harness left on after his walk). He’ll then bring him straight into the room.

The lead will be long enough for Mackie to get to the person but not to leap onto them. Everyone can relax.

Next they will give him something he loves for his mouth. They will remove the lead when he has calmed down. In time he could be taught to settle somewhere.


I couldn’t resist this lovely photo

The solution is largely management and will require consistency and patience. I’m sure in time they will no longer need the lead.

A week later: “When the daughter visited, he sat on the stairs behind the gate he was then popped on the lead and let off once he calmed after meeting the daughter and Mackie didn’t jump up.
We have frosted the ‘culprit’ window and this has helped enormously as Mackie is not getting worked up by passing people.  
We are going to start the desensitising him of the doorbell.
We found the session very empowering and it gave us some great tools to help Mackie, and more importantly it gave us a great insight into why Mackie acts the way he does and this helps us to help him be the best dog he can be.”
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