Ask the Dogfather: Labs in need of door manners

The 13-year old, and the 6-month old Labs have bad habits when it comes to greeting guests. — Photo by Chris Snyder

Hi Tom,

I have a 6-month-old Labrador puppy who is overly exuberant when company arrives. When he hears a knock at the door, he barks and runs to the door so he can sniff and paw at the visitors with great enthusiasm! I also have a 13-year-old Lab, who has toned down his happy welcoming with age, but who still barges to the door to greet visitors.

Is it possible to have the young Lab behave, even though the older Lab is wagging his tail full-force and showing off bad manners?


Chris Snyder

Dear Hopeful,

One of the key reasons humans and dogs bonded thousands of years ago is precisely what you’re complaining about … territoriality. Early on, humans discovered that nobody could sneak up and surprise them if they had a dog present. Between their heightened sense of hearing and smell, coupled with their enthusiastic response to anyone approaching their home (territoriality), dogs make the perfect alarm system, letting their owners know about any potential intruder. Virtually all dogs will bark at someone’s approach.

However, the way in which dogs greet the visitor crossing the threshold into their domain can vary greatly. While a Lab may act thrilled and happy to receive a guest, directing him right to the refrigerator for some refreshment and hoping that he might share, a Doberman might be more inclined to refuse entrance to a visitor unless OK’ed by the homeowner.

In either case, the dog needs to be taught door manners — more often than not, not an easy task. It takes the redirecting of the dog’s instinctual territorial response to a calm routine, which requires some serious training. When the bell rings, the dog should be praised for letting you know somebody’s there. Then, as you tell the guest to wait a second, the dog is directed away from, but within sight of the door, told to sit or lie down and stay, while you let the guest in. Then, at your discretion, the dog is told OK, at which point he can come forward and greet the visitor … politely. No crotch sniffing, jumping, barking, mouthing.

Even for Cesar Millan, an enthusiastic, friendly 6-month-old Lab coupled with a 13-year-old who was never taught door manners is quite a challenge. They must initially be taught individually, then together. For the training to be successful, once the dogs understand what’s expected of them, the “door routine” must be implemented every time someone enters, not just guests. This is likely to require perseverance, patience, practice, and the help of a pro.

Good luck,

The Dogfather