"As a dog trainer, these are the 4 rules to follow if your dog is difficult around guests."

Do you find it hard to entertain in your home because of your dog? Now we all know that some dogs are really mellow and chilled and not too phased by visitors coming over while for other dogs a new visitor in the house can mean lots of thing.

Some dogs are very excitable and just want to lick the new intruder to death. Some dogs get anxious. Some dogs like to jump on people. Some dogs like to bark when the door-bell rings and some dogs are so food obsessed that they will stalk your visitor just in case a crumb drops on the floor.

The bottom line is (and sometimes it’s very hard for us “dog lovers” to remember) that not everyone loves dogs like you do – I know it’s hard to believe. As a mum of two young kids and quite a boisterous, food obsessed dog, I absolutely understand both sides.

So, you need to be mindful of this, especially when you have non-dog people coming over to your house. You need to be respectful of others and teach your dog some boundaries and rules when you have visitors over.


Here are my top tips for managing your dog when you have visitors coming over:

Stage One: Before your guests arrive.

If possible, make sure your dog has been for a good walk or done some good exercise to get out some energy before your guests arrive. A tired, well-exercised, mentally stimulated dog is less likely to misbehave and cause trouble when you have people over.

Stage Two: When guests arrive.

You know your dog and the sort of mischief they get up. So if your dog gets over-excited when people ring the doorbell or first arrive to your house, make sure to put your dog on the lead before they get there so you can have full control over your dog.

Some dogs love to jump on people, some just get very excited and may knock over small children, some may bark. Having them on the lead will give you the ability to have control. Also make sure to have your dog’s favourite treats sitting by the front door. That way, when your dog is calm and doing the correct thing, you can give them a really delicious treat.

Even better, you could start to teach your dog to sit and wait patiently at the door or on his bed until everyone has come in. You can start to practise this daily with your partner, mum, dad, etc.


Stage Three: During their visit.

Even though we all love our dogs dearly and expect everyone else to, this is not always the case. Some children might be afraid of dogs. Some parents might not like their children being licked by dogs. Your dog should not be jumping on anyone, let alone on children, even though you might tolerate this behaviour. Other parents might not like it, and even a small dog could harm a child if they jumped up at them.


These are some of the things to keep in mind when your dog is around young children. If your dog cannot respect these boundaries, pop him on the lead as mentioned above so you have full control until he is calm and giving the child some space.

Teach your dog that they are only allowed on the couch and/or bed on your command.

This is a very personal one. Some people love having their dog up on their bed and the couch and wouldn’t change this for anything. But imagine the scenario when a guest (who is not such a dog person) is sitting quietly on the couch and then your pooch decides to jump up to join them uninvited.

Now don’t worry, I am certainly not saying you cannot never let your dog on the couch or bed, BUT, I am saying that it might be a good idea to start teaching your dog (if they don’t do this already) that they are only allowed up when you invite them up.

In our house, Cooper is not allowed on the couch. He’s a big dog and he sheds hair. Even though we love him, it’s not nice for others. But he is allowed on our bed, only when we invite him up. He will literally walk up to the bed and rest his head on it until we say “OK up”. It’s pretty cute. And very respectful.

Teach your dog the “on your mat” command.

Another good thing you can do in a situation like this is to teach your dog the “on your mat” or “on your bed” command. The idea behind it is to train your dog to stop whatever they’re doing and go and sit quietly on their mat or bed.

To teach your dog the “on your mat” or “on your bed” command, make sure to have some delicious treats ready, call your dog over to their bed/mat, say the command “on your bed” and once they are lying in their bed, you reward them with a treat. Practice this over and over. Without distractions first and then with distractions once he gets it. With consistency and repetition, your dog should learn this one pretty fast.


When you have young children over, your dog might become over excited or may play up a little more than usual, so make sure to have some special high value (extra delicious and/or long lasting) treats they can enjoy on their mat whilst you are entertaining.


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Put your dog outside with a bone.

If it’s just too hard, and your dog is not listening or is stressed out, put him outside. Honestly, Cooper is a good dog but as mentioned above he is pretty food driven so when we have a lot of people over with kids, I will often put him outside during meal time with a bone. It keeps him very happy and quiet.

When all else fails, see if a family member or a friend can have your dog for a couple of hours.

I have one friend who is allergic to dogs, quite badly, so I am totally respectful of that and if/when she comes over, my husband Jase does his best to get Cooper out of the house. For situations when your feel your dog is too anxious or your fearful of how your dog is going to react with visitors, a last resort is to see if someone can look after your pooch for a few hours.

A few weeks back we had 25 people coming over in the arvo for a kids dinner. 10 of those were toddlers! As well as I can train my kids to sit and eat, I can’t train other peoples’ kids. I know as good as Cooper is, that when there are that many kids running around eating their dinner, there is no point in risking it.

So we made the call to take him to my in laws house for a few hours. It makes me sad to think that we can’t have him at home but at the same time, I know my dog. He is too food driven in a situation like that and not everyone who came loves dogs so it was the best decision for all.


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STAGE FOUR: Once everyone has left.

Make sure to praise your dog if they have done a good job. Let them know you are proud of them. Also make sure that any food scraps on the ground are safe for dogs and if they are, let you dog clean them up (if they haven’t already) saving you from having to get out the vacuum cleaner.

If you think your dog is a risk to your children, please seek the help from a dog trainer/behaviourist ASAP. Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY never ever leave a child and dog alone and unattended. Always make sure to supervise and step in if you feel the dog is uncomfortable or the child is at risk.

How do you manage your dog when visitors come over? Tell us in the comments section below. 

Mel Ritterman is a qualified dog trainer and mum-of-two. You can find more information about Mel on her website Cooper and Kids, or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.