Does Your Dog Bark Reactively or Jump When Visitors Enter the Doorway?
Tom and Martha contacted CPT concerned about how Schroeder, their 2.5 year old, neutered, male Golden Retriever Mix acted with visitors. Schroeder was often apprehensive with new persons, especially males, and would routinely bark, lunge, and threaten to nip persons who entered the household. Schroeder was more relaxed when first meeting people in the kitchen, especially if the visitors were inside for several minutes while Schroeder had time to acclimate outside on the deck. However, due to Schroeder’s general anxiety with unfamiliar people and his territoriality, his reactive behavior was more pronounced when first meeting people at the doorway.
Dixie, the family’s 10-year old, female, spayed Golden Retriever Mix, exacerbated Schroeder’s behavior. Although Dixie was friendly, she would bark excitedly and sometimes jump, which would agitate Schroeder.
The Solution- The CPT Doorway Behavior Drill
The following video demonstrates the CPT Doorway Behavior Drill. The goals of the drill are: 1) to provide a replacement behavior (sitting) in lieu of jumping or lunging, 2) to allow the calm owner to take control of the doorway greeting process from the dogs, 3) to provide the dogs a specific protocol to perform at the door, 4) to calm the dogs and institute impulse control, and 5) to countercondition the dogs so that they feel more secure and trusting of visitors invited into the house.
The preliminary steps include: 1) teaching the dogs to sit reliably and responsively on command, 2) teaching the dogs the Sit-Wait-OK impulse control protocol at the doorway, and 3) conducting a doorbell desensitization drill, so that the dogs become less aroused when hearing the doorbell. The above drills are first completed with each dog individually. When the dogs are proficient individually the drills are conducted with the dogs in tandem.
Once the dogs have mastered the preparatory drills the dogs are ready to begin the formal CPT Doorway Behavior Drill. First, each dog is handled individually and on-leash. Then, both dogs are handled together while on-leash. Next, each dog is handled individually off-leash. Finally, the dogs are handled in tandem off-leash. In addition, for each step we first work with family members and then employ non-familial volunteers of a variety of profiles, particularly in regard to age and gender.
The drill is simple and methodical, which is why it almost always works splendidly. The dogs quickly understand what is expected and readily cooperate. Moreover, the food helps to countercondition and desensitize the dogs, redirects the dogs from the excitement or trepidation caused by the visitor’s arrival, and makes it fortuitous for the dogs to cooperate with the protocol. Once the dogs reliably perform to specification we recommend that the handler gradually wean the food.
The accompanying video was taken during our second appointment. The dogs are in tandem and off-leash. The volunteer visitor is the father who is wearing a hat and sunglasses, which has frightened Schroeder in the past. The handler is the family’s teenage daughter. As you can see, Schroeder and Dixie behave extremely well, even with neighbors and dogs across the street.
To watch further videos demonstrating the CPT Doorway Behavior Drill, please check out the CPT Facebook Page, as there are two more excellent videos posted on March 7.
If you wish to improve your dog’s behavior at the doorway, please contact CPT by email (MarkCPT@aol.com) or by phone (404-236-2150). CPT office hours are Monday thru Friday from 9 am to 4 pm.