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Enjoy a Well-Behaved Dog When You Have Guests

 Reviewed 28 October 2017 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

==> Your GSD jumping up, barking at, or humping your Guests?

Unless you like that, read this:

Enjoy a Well-Behaved Dog When You Have Guests

This is a very common problem, right? We have guests in the house, or we meet our friends or relatives somewhere outside, and the dog shows embarassing if not frightening behavior. Can you relate?

Well, our GSDs never did any of that but that's because we have trained them right. And so can you. This MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL aims at helping you with just that. Training your dog to make you proud when you have guests!

Many, many topics feed into this one:

  • Barking for attention and barking at the door
  • Dog-People aggression, Dominance aggression, and Territorial aggression
  • Jumping up on people
  • Keeping your dog out of a No-Go zone
  • Calming signals
  • Pack leadership, and many more

If you have no access to Dan's online dog training video site, you will particularly welcome the following key points how to get a well-behaved dog when you have guests - or when you meet your friends or relatives outside.

Awaiting Guests

Before your guests arrive, ensure your dog is calm and relaxed.

If your dog is not calm, you have several options. The main options are:

When your guests arrive and ring the doorbell, do not let your dog be the first at the door. This is generally applicable advice. You should always be the gatekeeper, and your dog should be slightly behind you. You can and should practice this many times before you actually get guests that you care about.

So, when the doorbell rings, slowly walk to the door, with your GSD in tow. In case your dog stormed towards the door already, make your dog sit at a full body length behind you. Do not open the door before your dog complies and is calm. - Again, practice this beforehand or at least inform your guests why it may take a moment before you open the door. wink

Inviting Guests Inside

Before you open the door, ensure your dog is behind you. Some dog owners lock their dog away before they open the front door. I am against this.

Here's why: One of the reasons why all of us have (or want) a German Shepherd is, I hope, because GSDs are a superior guard dog too. But if you lock away your dog, or confine your dog to an outside kennel(!), then there is very limited chance for your GSD to protect you, in case you get an unwanted visitor instead of a friendly guest.

And almost all other dog owners I know (who don't lock their dog away) allow their dog to storm towards the door when the doorbell rings - instead of training their dog to remain behind them. Is your dog one of those? wink

So, again, ensure your GSD is behind you before you open the door, and particularly before you invite your guests inside your house.

How to Train Your Dog to Stay Behind You

Now you may wonder: But how do I get my dog to stay behind me?

This requires some dedicated dog training long before your guests arrive:

  • Make your dog sit (indoors or outdoors doesn't matter)
  • Under eye contact and while saying "Staaaay", move two steps backwards, away from your dog
  • If your GSD remained calm and sitting, go and briefly reward your dog (praise and affection are great reward types for this situation, see Adult GSD Training Essentials or GSD Puppy Training Essentials) - if not, repeat but continue to move at least two steps backwards
  • Once successful, increase the distance you move away from your dog, then even turn the back on your dog, then even run away from your dog
  • Finally, use all imaginable forms of distraction (involving people is great!) until you are totally sure that your GSD fully complies with the Stay-Command no matter what!

Behavior to Require from Your Guests

Now, you open the door, greet your guests, and invite them inside. Half way through you might give them a hug, and even then your GSD has to remain behind you (see above how to train your dog to stay, even when other people are distracting your dog).

If you are a new GSD owner, don't you worry: Already a GSD puppy of 4 months of age has so much sense of protection that (s)he is able to clearly differentiate between a friendly hug between you and friends, and an assault by a stranger.

Only when you say "Okay!" to your dog (or whatever Release command you prefer), you allow sniffing the guests. This, any dog must be allowed to do, because sniffing anything new is part of the canine genetical heritage.

Now I almost hear you screaming: "But my dog is not just sniffing my guests, (s)he is jumping up on them, and some of my guests are just scared!"

- Sure, no problem, be a bit patient please and see below.

Train your Guests

What you must require from your untrained guests (and what you should tell them beforehand as well) is that they don't immediately give attention to your dog: No eye contact, no talking, no patting, no nada. Just standing upright and basically ignoring your dog - with one initial exception, and this is where I disagree with Dan's approach:

Before your guests step inside your house (and similarly outside say on a walk, before friends come close to you), they should very briefly but clearly seek your dog's eye contact and indicate a light bow to your dog (nodding the head down for a second is enough, and from a distance is fine too).


Dogs in general, and particularly GSDs are very sensitive to our human body language f. They do notice from our gestures and facial expressions a lot more than most of us can even imagine! And your GSD certainly notices whether your guests pay respect to your dog's sense of territory or not.

The brief eye contact and subsequent light bow or nodding before stepping into your dog's assumed territory (whether inside your house or out on the road) serve exactly this purpose - and they do so very well indeed. Try it! Not just once, but several times.

If you don't believe me, see it as a game and ask various people in various situations to behave the way I suggested above, and record/notice your dog's behavior. Then don't ask various people in various situations, just let them behave as they normally do, and again record/notice your dog's behavior. Now you will be convinced - and you've enjoyed a fun experience too!

How to Train Your Dog Not to Jump Up

You may still wonder: But how do I get my bouncy dog NOT to jump up on my guests?

As promised this we address now as well. Again, this requires some dedicated dog training long before your guests arrive:

  • Needless to say, you will need to have applied all the earlier advice (Feeding Routine, Attention Seeking & Co), so that you are your dog's accepted Pack leader!
  • Whenever our dog jumps up (on us or on other people), we should turn so much sideways that our body language is uninviting - but that we can still see what our dog (or anyone's dog) is doing!
  • So, we don't turn the back on the dog (this is rude and would signal the dog that we have no respect)
  • We turn sideways, fold the arms, and ignore the jumping
  • If our dog (or anyone's dog!) is too strong and the jumping threatens us to fall over, we briefly seek eye contact, say a sharp "No!", and walk away from the dog
  • If we can, before our dog (or anyone's dog!) comes close, we calmly but firmly say "Sit!"
  • Each time our dog does not jump up, or sits when we say so, we briefly reward our dog (like above, the suitable reward types for this situation are praise and affection; food treats are not necessary at all, but if you can't resist then give a small one)
  • We continue this training until our dog is totally compliant, no matter who is stepping into our dog's assumed territory

When to give attention

So, for the first 5 to 10 minutes your guests should not give your dog any attention apart from initially showing respect as described above. Instruct your guests to totally ignore your dog.

Then, when your dog has calmed down, is relaxed, and has accepted that you have allowed your guests to invade your dog's assumed territory, your guests may call your dog to them and praise and pat as much as your dog likes it. If your guests cannot read dog body language f to assess what your dog likes and doesn't like, then you need to advise them - particularly when to stop, so that they won't accidentally make your dog aggressive.

This is generally applicable advice. Your dog (and any other dog!) should not be approached by walking to the dog, but instead by calling the dog to them. This is particularly important advice when your guests bring children along, since kids have a desire to pat a dog immediately (unless they are scared of course).

Explain to your guests (ideally beforehand) that this is not to forbid them to show affection to your dog, but to keep everyone safe and happy: If they call your dog to them, and your dog comes, then (s)he indicates that (s)he is accepting that a 'stranger' is getting so close that it would threaten any dog by its nature.

Think about it! The only reason why canines allow us to be so close that we can even throw our arms around their neck(!), kiss them on the cheek etc, is because they are domesticated. - Wild dogs and wolves wouldn't allow that!

Conversely, if we (or children) walk to a dog, throw our arms around its neck, kiss it on the cheek and/or show other forms of affection, then we are actually invading their space - quite literally, their comfort zone.

If you educate your guests this way, then everyone - your guests, you, and your dog - will enjoy being together.

Allow your dog to make you proud

Even after the initial sniffing, then ignoring, and then (probably) giving affection, don't separate your German Shepherd from your guests. If you confine a GSD to another room or to its crate while you have guests in the house, a GSD may become very agitated and even anxious or aggressive. Certainly a GSD will be very stressed if you do that. Because of its ingrained sense of protection your German Shepherd must be allowed to stay close to you while you have guests.

Just put down a comfortable nap mat f for your GSD, and your dog will soon lie down quietly and you can enjoy your guests and be proud of your dog's overall behavior! No barking at your guests, no jumping up, no humping, no attention-seeking, no nada.

You can be sure, your guests will want to come back! smile

Don't forget about your dog when you have guests

If your guests stay for longer, then once a while call your dog to you (or let your guests call it), because your dog will appreciate if your guests are not your sole point of attention now - like you too would appreciate to be looked after once a while.

When it's getting too much for you or for your guests, simply tell your dog again to lie down on its nap mat f or dog blanket f and ignore your dog for the next minutes. Just don't forget your GSD's water requirement and potty times.

It is the little things like these (involving your dog in what's happening, regularly giving your dog attention (on your terms), taking breaks with your dog, spending precious together time etc) that have a tremendous impact on your overall relationship with your GSD. On the quality of your bonding.



  • Before your guests arrive, ensure your dog is calm and relaxed; use SSCD, Collar-Freeze, Massage, or heavy Exercise if this is not the case (all dog training tools are in the Dog Training Toolkit f)
  • Train your dog to always stay behind you when you open the door - see above how
  • Train your guests to ignore your dog for the first 5 to 10 minutes
  • Exception: Before entering your house your guests should briefly pay your dog respect - see above how
  • Be aware that this advice differs from Dan's dog training approach
  • Train your dog not to jump up on your guests - see above how
  • This is particularly important when your guests bring children along - Safety first!
  • Before your guests pay attention to your dog, or even show affection like patting, they should call your dog to them and read the dog's body language f - see above why
  • Don't exclude your GSD when you have guests - involve your dog, at least put down a comfortable nap mat f close to you, and allow your dog to make you proud

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Jonathan: Thank you for your period advice. It is excellent! My GSD puppy is now 8 months and we read your advice regularly.

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