Dogs Trust urges Leeds pooch owners to prepare pets ahead of more indoor socialising at home

Dogs Trust is urging dog owners to prepare their pets ahead of restrictions allowing more indoor mixing inside the home.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:45 am
photo: Dogs Trust

This is because welcoming more people into the home is likely to be a big transition for pet dogs.

Dogs Trust said that while dog owners have spent an increased and concentrated amount of time with their pets at home since the first lockdown, their pets will have become accustomed to interacting with a much smaller number of people.

It added that dogs could become anxious or excited if more people start showing up inside their home.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dr Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at Dogs Trust, said: “Over the last year many of us will have adapted to living in lockdown. Life for our dogs will also have been different, with few visitors coming into the house, but perhaps more delivery drivers coming to the door and leaving again.

“It is important for us to make sure they are prepared for more social interactions at home, staying calm when people come to the door and seeing new people come inside. This will be especially true for dogs who have been acquired as puppies during lockdown and may have had limited contact with visitors during that time.”

Dogs Trust has put together some training tips for dog owners to make the transition of welcoming guests easier:

- Start by knocking on hard surfaces at home and ignoring your dog’s response (you can use a mobile phone to recreate the sound of a doorbell for the same purpose). If your dog shows a strong reaction, for example barking or rushing to the door, then make the sound quieter. Gradually increase the volume until your dog is ignoring reasonably loud knocks and doorbells. 

- Gradually increase the number and volume of the knocks/rings until your dog is ignoring them completely. They have now become meaningless as they no longer result in anyone coming in at all.

- Ask a helper to go out and approach the front door to knock or ring the bell while you remain inside with your dog. Start by having the helper knock or ring just once and throw your dog a treat reward if they remain quiet and calm.

- Have your helper approach and knock/ring the door again. When this happens, encourage your dog to run to their bed – ideally placed in a room behind a door or child gate, where visitors wouldn’t enter – and reward them there by dropping a handful of treats onto their bed. Repeat this process several times during one session but spend no longer than 10 minutes per session.

- Over a number of sessions your dog will start to respond to the knock/bell by running to their bed with you. Encourage them to lead the way, you could turn it into a race to see who will get there first – it needs to be as fun as possible! When they get to their bed spend some time giving them a fuss and treats. The more you practice the better they will become at this game, eventually they will run to bed all by themselves and wait for you to bring them a treat.

- When you get to this stage, start to give a longer lasting treat, such as a stuffed interactive feeder, that will take them a good while to enjoy. You can now introduce short periods of closing the door to this room so that they are left alone to enjoy their treat.

- You are now ready to try with a real visitor. Once your dog has run to their bed when the visitor has knocked/rung the bell, close the door to this room so your dog can enjoy their long-lasting treat whilst you invite your visitor in and settle them down. Once your dog is calm, and if your visitors want to meet them, you can then let your dog in to meet your visitor if you feel it is safe to do so. You can now use this as your routine every time you have visitors, and you can also take down the sign from your front door.

- It's a good idea to have a long-lasting tasty treat ready prepared in your fridge in case you are surprised by unplanned visitors. Preparation and practice make perfect.

Click here for video training.

Dogs Trust's Dog School has been running its usual training classes online during lockdown, and some of its face-to-face ones will resume from May 17 - more information here.