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Top 3 Games To Prepare Your Dog For Visitors Coming At Easter 

If your dog tends to bark or act out when visitors come over, you’re not alone. Many dogs struggle with reactivity towards unfamiliar people. The good news is that using training games, you can help your pupper stay calmer and learn that visitors mean good things happen. These games either come from or are inspired by Absolute Dogs and will help your Fido manage their big feelings. At its heart, managing visitor reactivity comes down to supporting your dog to change their emotional state and teaching an alternate behaviour.

Look at Moi: Look at Me

With the “Look at Me” game, you’ll capture your dog’s attention away from the visitor trigger and reward them for calm behaviour. This game is also the first game I teach deaf dogs. Here’s how it works:

  1. Every time your dog gets eye contact then Mark and Reward. It could be just a glance to start with so don’t give up. Mark and Reward even a casual look.
  2. Once your dog realises that looking to you makes snackies rain from the sky then add in a cue. For hearing dogs, I say ‘Look’. For deaf dogs I point to my eye.
  3. Make this game a consistent part of your game repertoire by playing it for a few minutes a day.
  4. Gradually increase distractions as long as your pupper will keep playing the game. If Fido is over threshold and won’t look at you or won’t take the Reward, then go back a step or two until your doggo can play the game again.

By playing this game, you’re rewarding the behaviour you want (calm focus) instead of inadvertently rewarding the reactivity through yelling or putting your dog away. With time and consistency, your dog will learn that visitors predict amazing things happening when they stay focused on you.

Boundary Games for the Win: Bus Stop Hop

Boundary Games can work in all sorts of situations. Once your doggo has mastered these games then you can take it out in the wild. Whatever you say is a boundary becomes a boundary. It’s all part of the fun. To play Bus Stop Hop get two different dog beds and place one just inside the front door and one just outside the front door. Please have your dog on leash so they can’t do a runner when you start playing outside.

  1. Play Boundary Games on the inside bed. Remember to keep up a rapid rate of reinforcement (popcorn feeding)
  2. Now open the door and ask your dog to leave the inside boundary and hop onto the outside boundary. Keep up with the popcorn feeding
  3. Now, ask your dog to hop back onto the inside boundary again and start ping ponging between the boundaries. Every time your dog goes out the front door take a moment to pop them on the outside boundary so that this becomes the normal way of exiting the house. Over time the front door loses some of its sparkly excitement and visitors coming in and out won’t seem nearly as exciting as they once were.

Ding Dong Dash (or Knock Knock, Who’s There?)

This game will change everything for the doorbell or knocking reactive dog. You might have to recruit your neighbours to ring or knock every time they walk past your front door. It’s a great opportunity to get to know who lives next door. Remember that we’ve selectively bred dogs for thousands of years to guard our campfires, so asking them to not bark when someone comes to the door always seems a bit harsh to me. I let Stan Doggo Lee bark a few times and then he runs to his boundary for his reward. We’re still a work in progress but for someone who is used to a profoundly deaf dog, Stan has certainly sent me some noise challenges.

  1. Have a boundary near you and Rewards in your pocket. Knock gently on the wall, ask your pooch to go to their boundary and popcorn feed. It’s OK if they bark to start. The aim here is to desensitise and counter condition for the doorbell or knocking
  2. Over time you can gradually increase the volume of your knocking and even add in the doorbell. Ask your neighbours to ring your doorbell every time they pass your door, Your dog may still bark but keep asking them to go to their boundary for the Reward.
  3. Your goal here is to reinforce the boundary so that it is so valuable that Fido will say “boof, boof” and then run to their boundary for their Reward.

Bonus Tip: Be Prepared With Enrichment Games

If your dog is very noise sensitive, you may need to manage exposure levels gradually. Having a stash of long-lasting food puzzle toys ready can buy you time in situations where your dog can’t yet hold themselves together.


– Stuff a Kong with frozen peanut butter or yogurt

– Use a snuffle mat to scatter their meal and have them forage

– Provide long lasting chews like Himalayan yak chews

– Pop some of their food in a paper towel insert or use the paper bags from the supermarket and let them forage

By directing your dog’s focus to these enrichment games as visitors arrive and settle in, you can help them remain under threshold until they’ve mastered the other visitor games.

Game On! Let’s Play!


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