Courtesy: How to Teach Your Dog to Stay Calm Around Guests


Teaching your dog to stay calm around guests starts with prevention (see this blog post for details on the whys and hows). Once prevention is in place, your dog will be ready to learn new, courteous habits.

Before you begin working with actual guests, your dog needs some foundation skills:

  1. Volunteered Eye Contact. In a quiet room, put your dog on leash and reward him with a treat every time he looks at your face.

  2. Volunteered Sit or Down. Each day, count out 25 treats. Feed him one every time you see him choose to sit/down on his own. We want all 25 gone by the end of the day. You can also practice this on leash.

It's very important that your dog volunteer these behaviors without you asking for them. When your dog can earn 10 treats in 30 seconds, move to a more distracting room. When he can earn 10 treats in 30 seconds in that room, he's ready to practice the same behaviors with a guest present! The goal is that your dog pays more attention to you than to your guest.


  • Keep using your prevention! Although your dog’s been learning that he gets good things for paying attention to you, his behavior won’t change overnight. Keep him on leash or behind a baby gate to prevent this behavior.

  • Distance is your best friend. Your dog should notice the guest, but not completely loose his marbles. The farther he is from the guest, the easier it will be for him to remember his good manners.

  • Wait. Resist the temptation to call his name or ask him to sit/down. Just wait for him to volunteer the behavior. Remember, you can move farther away from the guest if he's having a hard time.

  • Use an extra yummy treat AND verbal praise when he volunteers eye contact or a sit/down.

  • Ask your guest to completely ignore the dog.

  • Over time, your dog will be able to move closer and closer to the guest without jumping.

  • BONUS: one of my favorite tools for teaching dogs to relax despite excitement is Dr. Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation.

To fast track his training, bring him out for a few minutes of training when your guest arrives and then return him to his crate with a yummy stuffed Kong or chew until your guest leaves.

Quick and Easy Solutions for Puppy Biting

yellow labrador puppy in grass

(An updated post on the perennial topic of puppy nibbling! For the original post, read, Puppies: There Will Be Teeth)

1) The majority of dog professionals agree that most puppy biting is relatively normal. We could get off into a long discussion exploring why some puppies bite more than others, but that doesn't necessarily help us solve the here and now problem. The only thing I'll say on that point is that if your puppy came home at less than 8 weeks old, and/or it was a single pup without littermates, you are more likely to experience more intense biting problems than a pup that was brought home over 8 weeks old and had multiple littermates.

2) Puppies are not biting all the time. Although it might feel constant, there are definitely periods of time without biting, and we're thankful for that! If you're struggling with puppy biting, ask yourself:

  • When is puppy not biting?

  • What's different about the not-biting scenarios compared to the biting scenarios?

  • How can we make the biting scenarios look more like the not-biting scenarios?

3) The solution for puppy biting involves two things: prevention and redirection. The more prevention, the less pain. A big part of the original blog on this topic was about the reality of puppy biting and how it's not something we can completely shut off. Even as a professional, when I'm around puppies, I still occasionally feel teeth on my skin. Prevention is about reducing the number of biting instances; not about eliminating them. 
If my prevention failed, I utilize redirection to get the pup's teeth back onto something legal.

Common biting scenarios and how to handle them:

  • Holding the puppy. Hand feed yummy treats while holding the pup, or offer a yummy chew. Some pups don't like being held so they bite. It's a good idea to train your pup to enjoy handling because if he likes being handled, he is far less likely to bite. And, you'll be preventing future aggression biting!

  • Petting the puppy. Force feed for the win! While petting with one hand, offer a toy or yummy chew next to the puppy's mouth with the other hand. Rather than asking him to stop all biting, you provide a legal place to exercise his urge.

  • Putting on a leash/collar. Get your ninja skills ready for this one! Right before you begin to put the collar around her neck, drop a handful of very small treats on the floor. While she's busy scarfing them up, you can quickly snap the collar on.

Here's a list of some of my favorite chews for puppies:

  • No-Hide by Earth Animal

  • Lamb's Ears

  • Braided Bully Sticks

  • Mega Cow Tail (this one has a thin bone running through the center and requires **extra** supervision)

And of course, I always recommend doing some reward-based basic obedience training with your pup. They have to learn new, appropriate ways to interact with humans to replace the jumping and biting. We cannot expect what we haven't taught. They don't understand that behaviors like sitting, lying down, or offering eye contact work to get attention and yummy treats and it's our job to teach them!