The fall has come, and with it, the annual trek of small children selling “great stuff” you didn’t know you wanted, all in the name of a “good cause.” Little Sawyer from across the street came with flyer and collection envelope in hand. My, how he’s growing! A year ago, I think mom still hovered at the end of our sidewalk stage whispering Sawyer’s sales pitch to him, but this year he bravely came to the door, assumed I’d want some popcorn or chocolate covered pretzels at exorbitant prices, and jumped right in to selling and telling me how to fill in the form. What a cutie!
Unfortunately, Prophet’s “kid radar” was on, and he jumped into the mix with enthusiasm. Sawyer has always seemed to like Proph, but my guy has blossomed to 115 pounds since being put on steroids, and while there’s no question about biting, my visitors of the under four-foot variety can’t count on being lick-free when they come over.
Proph backed Sawyer into the corner, then against the now-closed front door, and then he shadowed my poor little neighbor as if Sawyer were covered in peanut butter. Oops! And this from a “canine good citizen.”
Then it hit me. I have company coming for Thanksgiving, and one of the members of the visiting group is a two-year-old named Colin. Oops and double oops! Time to look up some new dog-training. Thank goodness for the internet and my small library of good dog books.
The behavior is called “door greeting,” and not “in-your-face-I’m-in-charge-here” attack. Okay, what can I do in one month?
- Find a place for your dog to go when the doorbell rings. Dogs have a hard time learning negative thoughts, like “keep away from the door” or “no going on the furniture,” so its good to have a special place, creatively enough called “place” to help target them in the right direction. Check. I have a small mat from my local hardware for the purpose. I put it near the front door, but not right at it. I will allow Proph to peek out the front window, give his verbal hello (which for some reason intimidates strangers – heh, heh, heh), and then, when I come to the door, I’ll give the “place” command.
- Have a small leash at the ready — just in case. Bought one at my local Wag-N-Wash. It’s only about a foot long, so technically, I could leave it on Prophet all the time. I prefer not to have it getting caught on furniture and knick-nacks, so I will put a hook in some discrete place near the front door. Putting it on will be a good signal to Prophet he has to behave according to my rules–well maybe.
- Next is the hard one–commit to five minutes daily to work on the “place” command. I’ll start with just opening the front door and getting Proph to stay in place while I wander in and out. The important thing is to release him after a while with a “release” or “break” command.
Increase the challenge. After he has the “place” command down with the open door, I’ll try to get people to come to the front door, ring the bell, talk with me–all while we ignore the elephant-in-the-middle-of-the-room syndrome. Or, in this case, the hundred-pound fur ball who wants nothing less than 100% of our attention. And for Proph, bad attention is as good as good attention. He just wants lots of it, all the time.
- Practice, practice! In just over a week, I will have a challenging dry run, as Halloween Trick-or-Treaters come to the door. Ooh, can’t wait for that one. Last year, I had my special guy home to help when Proph ran out sniffing and loving all the vampires to kingdom come, getting the testosterone going among the hovering dads, and shrieks from the little princesses wandering about. Talk about your Nightmare on Elm Street! This year, Jay will be away for the evening. IF I’m home, I’ll have this adventure to myself. Think I’ll start that door-greeting trick right now!
Warning to visitors — this dog may not bite, but don’t count on getting away without a good sniff and lick.