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  • Liz MacHaffie

The Visitor Routine

Updated: Jul 12



Does your dog have Big Feelings about visitors coming over? Whether they're excited, scared, or a little bit of both, it can be really helpful to have a predictable routine for when visitors arrive!


During your session, we'll go over what might work best for you and your dog. Here are some options!

  • Ask visitors to call or text instead of ringing the bell when they arrive. This can help prevent your dog from reacting to a knock or doorbell! (Which would kick off their stress, good or bad!)

  • Whenever visitors enter the house, your dog should be in her safe zone: gated or shut in a room, on a leash, crated, or outside in a secure yard. Ideally, fearful dogs should not be somewhere where guests are walking toward them as they enter. Some dogs will graduate to being able to be out when visitors arrive. (But first, they need to feel great about people being in the house and settled! The front door is usually the most exciting or scary place for dogs!)

  • Once guests are settled, your dog can come in on a leash and play Mat Game. If your dog needs a muzzle, be sure to put it on before bringing her out.

  • Once your dog has been relaxed for several minutes, you can release her to go say hello, if she would like to. You may have her drag her leash for extra safety, if desired. (Some dogs won't be released and will instead stay on leash with you, but get the choice of what they'd like to do!)

  • Let guests know whether or not they can pet your dog. If your dog has a Secret Handshake, let guests know how to do it!

  • Many dogs prefer not to be pet by guests. You can help them out by putting a brightly colored bandana or vest on them to help remind guests not to touch them. Many dogs become much more comfortable when they realize guests aren't reaching for them!

  • We want to be very mindful of our dog's body language. If she shows signs of stress, call her back to her mat and start playing the game again.

  • If she goes on her mat on her own, you can reward that, too!

  • Regular visitors are essential for progress. (But too many can be overwhelming.) In order to get enough "practice" and make good progress, most dogs need to see a visitor at least a couple times a month.

  • If your dog is normally upset when people leave, be sure to hold her leash and play Mat Game or use your "123 Game" as they go. Alternatively, you can put her back in her Safe Zone so you can see your guests out.


That's it! Please always let us know if you have questions about your dog's progress or any concerns about safety. Every dog is different, and we can help you tweak your dog's routine!

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