Training Your Dog to Welcome Pet Guests
If you have a friendly dog who gets along well with other pups and loves having human visitors over to the house, you might be considering letting your friends and family’s pets visit your home. Not all pets make good houseguests, though, and not all dogs are comfortable with other dogs in their homes.
Below are some tips to help you decide if allowing pet guests in your home is a good idea for you and your pooch, and how to improve the odds that your dog and the pet guest will get along well.
Before I go any further, however, if your pet has serious issues with other dogs, or has a history of injuring people or other animals, consult a certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC), a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA/CPDT-KSA) or a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB) for assistance before even considering a pet guest visit your home.
Assuming your dog has never hurt anyone and seems unlikely to bite another pet, follow the dog training tips below for training your dog to allow, and even welcome, four-legged guests.
Tips for Training Your Dog to Allow Pet Guests into Your Home
1. Consider your dog and the other pet’s past behavior.
Is your dog friendly to other dogs on walks and in other situations? How about your friend’s dog? If one or both of the dogs had issues with other dogs in any context, then it’s probably best to skip a home visit from your friend’s dog.
2. Have the dogs meet outdoors, rather than indoors.
Think about how you felt as a teenager when someone entered your room without permission. You probably weren’t thrilled. On the other hand, if you met the person somewhere else and became friends first, you might have eventually invited the person to visit your room.
The same applies to dogs. When your dog meets a new pet outdoors for a short walk, the pups have time to get to know each other. Once they are acquainted, it usually is easier for them to be indoors together. On top of that, walking into a home together is almost always less stressful for everyone than having one dog staring from the indoors while the other pet enters.
3. Associate the presence of the other canine with dog treats.
A good rule of thumb when training your dog is to use treats to create good associations, and bringing pet guests into your home is no exception. As soon as your dog sees the “guest dog” outdoors, start feeding dog treats. The other dog’s handler should do the same. This will help both dogs learn that good things happen when they are around each other. Feed both dogs occasional treats as they walk together.
4. Keep the first in-home visit short.
Time is a factor in keeping things low-key and relaxed. The shorter the encounter, the better it’s likely to go. It’s kind of like being in an elevator with an annoying person—it’s fine for a couple of floors, but if the elevator got stuck, you might start arguing. Keeping the pet guest’s first visit brief will go a long way to ensuring better long-term results.
Steps for Training Your Dog to Welcome a New Pet Visitor
If you and a friend or family member have dogs who generally get along well with other dogs, and you want to try a visit, here’s how I suggest introducing your pet guests.
- Take your dog out for a walk on leash and bring lots of yummy treats.
- Arrange for your friend and the “guest dog” to run into you “accidentally” on the walk.
- As soon as you see your friend and the guest dog, start feeding your dog occasional treats. Have your friend do the same with their dog.
- Keep walking until you and your friend meet. Then change direction so you are going the same way, and keep walking. Talk with your friend as you walk. There’s no need to let the dogs stop and sniff. In fact, it’s generally better to keep dogs moving in parallel—towards the same destination—instead of stopping when you reach each other.
- Walk the dogs around the block or down the street and then into your home.
- After you both enter the house, drop the leash handles, but keep the leashes clipped on each pet for a little while in case you need to separate the dogs (it’s easier to grab leashes off the ground than to grab dog collar).
- Keep an eye on the dogs to make sure they’re acting friendly and aren’t getting their leashes tangled. It’s OK to stop feeding treats at this point.
- After 5 or 10 minutes, have your friend and the guest dog leave.
Over time, you can make the visits longer, as long as everyone stays relaxed.
NOTE: Put away all food and toys whenever a pet guest is visiting because these items can trigger a fight.
Having pet guests over can be great for dogs who are comfortable with the guest dog in their home. Screen your pet guests for friendliness, and think carefully about whether or not your dog has the right personality to allow pet guests into your home safely. And if in-home visits aren’t for your dog, you can always try a play date in a neutral location.