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Training Large Dogs for Greeting Visitors

How to train your large dog how to greet visitors in a calm and polite manner.

The doorbell chimes, and with a loud bark, your large dogs jump up and run to the door, eagerly wanting to say hello to whoever is on the other side of the door. They mean no harm, of course, but the high energy levels and anticipation get them very excited, and this is no dream scenario for your guests.

The Challenge

Large breed Great Dane lying alert in her bed

Having guests can actually be quite a challenge for owners of large dogs who can't contain their enthusiams when guests come around. A large dog jumping around, licking, barking and pushing at the guests, isn't the warm welcome your guests deserve.

Some guests will love this warm welcome, giving your dog the green light to this behavior, and basically encouraging this behavior also the next time someone rings the door bell. Tell your guests up front that you're working on training your dog, and that they can't greet the dog until you say it's ok.

Some guests will probably not enjoy the overly warming welcome as much. Some might be scared, allergic, or just don't like dogs that much. We have to respect that.

So how do you train your large dog to restrain himself when guests come around?

In this picture Saga is alert, but staying in her upstairs bed. She knows someone is at the door, but she also knows she has to stay put, until we release her from the stay-command.

Decide What You Want

We often focus on what you don't want, but when training for a different behavior, you need to decide what kind of behavior you actually want from your dog.

A few options in this case, might include:

  • Staying put where they are

  • Going to a different spot, e.g. the dog bed, to lay down

  • Going with you to the door, sitting at your feet

  • Going with you half-way to the door, so they can observe from a distance, while waiting for the OK-signal to greet the guests.

There's no answer here that will fit every situation, dog, or house, so you have to choose what you think will work best for your situation, and just go with it.

When you've decided - that's when the training can begin. Training new behavior takes both time and effort, and you need to adjust the training accordingly to the wanted result.


A great strategy might be redirection. This means giving your dog something amazing enough to keep its attention on this, rather than on the newly arrived guests,

For dogs who loves toys, you might redirect his or her attention with a favorite, or exciting and rarely used toy, or even a game of tug-of-war.

Another redirection might be a treat your dog really loves, like bully sticks, a bone, a Kong filled with something scrumptious, or anything high-value for the dog.

Never just give your dog the reward of a game or toy, or a treat - he should work for it by sitting, laying or staying first. This will redirect the attention on following commands in stead of who's at the door.

This is not a cure, but very helpful until you get your pup properly trained for this situation.

Brief Confinement

This is not my favorite, as some dogs will get more excited by being separated from meeting the newly arrived guests, but often a necessity before the dog is fully trained, and very effective. Some dogs will be very stimulated by seeing guests entering the house, and the energy levels will rise a lot. Often when these dogs come into a room where there are new people, the energy levels won't rise as much.

Take your dog to another room, and close the door to separate him from the situation. Make sure your dog lays down before closing the door. Laying down is one of the most important commands you need to train your dog to obey, and in this setting it tells your dog that being calm is the right behavior.

When the guests are settled, you can open the door, and let the pup back in. For training purposes, let the dog come into the room, and then make him sit. After sitting for a few seconds, you may release him to greet the visitors. This will build his patience, and also will let him observe the guests before greeting. Observing the guest before greeting will calm him down, making the greeting more comfortable for all parts involved :)

Strict Commands

If your dog is familiar with the SIT and LAY commands, you should make them sit/lay when the door bell rings. This is best done with someone else opening the door, giving you the time and space to be close to your dog to make sure they stay put. The first times you'll probably be yelling your command over and over. Your perseverance here will be the key to success. Don't give up!

From wherever they are sitting or laying down, at some point they will see the guests arriving. At the appropriate moment, you give them your release-command. In this way they get to observe the guests coming into the house or room, and thus containing some of the unwanted energy when greeting.

Training Without Actual Guests

When your pup gives you a headache when expecting guests, you need to give it more training. Couple up with someone and do roleplay. Get your mate to ring the door bell, and get to work with your pup. Over and over again. You'll quickly get a feel for what tactic will be right for your dog. Stick to this tactic in the beginning, and advance to a new level on another occasion.

The more training you do without any distractions, will increase your successrate in reducing the high-spirited, often unwanted, greetings from your large dog. Let your guests and your dog connect in a calm and polite manner!

In a perfect world, a well behaved dog will stay put until the guests or you reach out. The dog should either wait for a command that tells them they're allowed to make contact, or have to wait until someone contacts them.

Good luck on making your large dog a well behaved and gentle greeter!

For further reading on training your dog, you can also check out this highly informative book:


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