What Might Be Causing My Dog to React to Guests?

So many factors can contribute to this behavior! The most common motivations are:

  • Fear: Dogs who are fearful of visitors can learn that their fearful behaviors seem to keep them “safe”.
  • A combination of both fear and excitement: “I want to meet you and I’m exited, but also I’m nervous!” Dogs can experience conflicting emotions, just like we can.
  • Frustration: Dogs may have playful, territorial, or fearful motivations and their regular behaviors don’t work to get them what they want, so they get frustrated and bark/lunge/snap.
  • Resource guarding: Dogs may guard resources from guests, like beds, couches, toys, or even people.

What Does a Behavior Plan for Guest Success Look Like?

  1. Manage your dog’s world to prevent or reduce practice of the unwanted behavior. This can mean temporarily keeping your dog separate from guests with something to do, not having guests over, or having them visit a friend they like while you have people over. (Usually, this is just for a couple of weeks to start your dog off on the right paw!)
  2. Teach your dog their Training and Behavior Games (Like the 123 Game and Come and Mat Game) at home, with no guests present. Most dogs need 2 to 3 weeks of practice doing these without triggers before we go to the next step. Your consultant will teach you which games are the best choice for your dog.
  3. Practice your dog’s Visitor Routine . You’ll be using your Management and Behavior Games, which is why you both need to get good at them first, before doing them around triggers.

While you’re training, it’s also important to:

  • Address any health concerns that might be affecting your dog’s behaviors.
  • Talk to your vet about behavior medications or supplements if you think that your dog might benefit from these.
  • Meet your dogs’ daily needs through enrichment and exercise.
  • Remember, your dog needs to go to Middle and High School before he can do College level work. (Check out our short article on Training Steps!)


What Does Success Look Like?

Clear improvement in your dog’s comfort and calmness around guests, and way less stress for you both! This can mean:

  • Your dog is able to be around guests and stay calm much more often. (Reactions become the exception, rather than the usual!)
  • Your dog can get noticeably closer to guests without a negative reaction.
  • Your dog recovers faster and easier when people come over.
  • You feel more confident about reading your dog’s body language and what to do when things go right, as well as how to help when it’s too much for your pup.

If you haven’t already, please check out these two short articles that can help you better understand what to expect: Behavior Program Expectations How much will my dog improve?

What Do I Need to Do?

We’ll give you the tools and know-how to help your dog. Your role for your dog is:
  1. To carry out the behavior plan. While we wish we could wave a magic wand and help your dog just within our sessions, behavior change takes time and practice. Your dog’s behaviors won’t change unless your behaviors do. And they won’t be consistent unless you are. We’ll help you find ways to maximize your success and fit training into your lifestyle.
  2. To let us know if you have questions, concerns, or struggles. We want more joy and less stress for both you and your dog! Email us so we can help you both out ASAP 🙂 Timely, honest communication helps us do our best for you.
We’re here to help you succeed, and we’re always rooting for you and your dog!