More than 200,000 people a year are estimated to be bitten by dogs in England, many of these take place within the private residence of the dog owner. The laws on this matter have recently changed and it is now against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, including the owner’s own home.
Dogs are a part of many families but it is important to understand that even if you have the most docile of dogs, there is always the chance that it could attack both strangers in your home and members of the family, no matter what breed it is. An appreciation is required that dogs are not human – although an important part of the family, they are animals and need to be treated as such.
Often we will hear in the news that the dog that attacks is usually not aggressive or worse still that reports have been made that the dog is aggressive but nothing effective is done by the authorities. Either way it is important that you have full control over your dog both in and outside your home to prevent accident s from happening.
Take the time to train your dog from a young age that people coming to the door and/or entering the house is a positive experience. In the first few months after bringing the pup home try a number of different friends and relatives visit you. Have the visitors come to the door and knock on the door, then when they enter allow the pup go to the visitor and ask the visitor to give lots of affection and positive praise. This will ensure that the puppy gets comfortable with human touch and affection.
Also focus on training your command for “go to bed”, choose whichever phrase you wish but remain consistent when training. It might also help to have regular visitors practice this command with the dog so that they will get used to having to go to bed not only for the family. This is a valuable command and can teach the dog that when people come over it is their cue to have some time out.
Teaching the “Go to bed” command
Make the dogs bed a safe haven and have some interesting toys for the dog to sit with. Use positive reinforcement techniques to teach the dog that going to bed is a positive experience and not only used when they have exhibited some undesirable behaviour. A dog’s bed should be where they go to relax and sleep.
Choose your designated spot and your chosen command and stick with it!
- Stand around 1 metre from the spot and say the command whilst pointing at the spot, whilst saying the command throw a tasty treat onto the spot.
- The dog should rush over and collect the treat – as soon as they do give lots of positive praise.
- Repeat these steps a number of times to reinforce the behaviour.
- Gradually increase the distance between where you and your dog are standing to the spot and continue with the steps above.
- Once the dog has successfully completed the above steps, change the treat from being a lure to being a reward for the desired behaviour i.e. use the command and point to the spot, if the dog goes to the spot then give the dog the treat and lots of positive praise.
- If the dog does not go to the bed then repeat steps 1-4 again (think about changing the treats you use if their interest waivers).
- Continue with step 5 over and over again but remember that training should be staggered and you will probably only keep the dogs attention for around 15 minutes, also incorporate changing the place where you tell your dog to complete the command e.g. a bed in a different room.
- Once the dog has completed each of the above steps then add in other distractions e.g. another person in the room playing with a ball or eating food.
- After a while fade and vary the reward – give the treat every third time the dog completes the command.
Understand that not everybody likes dogs and this must be respected when you have visitors (the postman for example!). If the person visiting is unsure of dogs then you could either put the dog on their bed with a tasty bone in another room or spend some time letting the nervous visitor meet the dog when they arrive. Even if you are confident that your dog will remain relaxed around the visitor it is neither fair nor enjoyable to have your visitor feeling uncomfortable.
It goes without saying; NEVER leave the dog alone with a baby or minor. No matter how well trained the dog is, they can sometimes be unpredictable around children (especially if the child likes pulling dog tails like my niece!) This is an absolute rule that all dog owners should adhere to and it is so upsetting that many serious dog attacks on minors have taken place when the victim is alone with the dog.
If your dog starts to develop undesirable behaviour when people come to the house, such as barking, jumping up, humping etc, then seek advice from a behaviourist. It is important to nip these issues in the bud at the earliest opportunity and will also ensure that your friends still come to visit you!!
These steps should help to ensure that your dog remains safe with visitors to your home and families can live in harmony with their pet.