Does your dog get upset when someone comes to your house for a visit? Here is a question about a household with a few Chihuahua’s who go nuts when someone comes to a house. Working together as a unified force, they antagonize the visitor with barks and nips. Here are a few suggestions I have regarding how to address the issue (which I have addressed in similar Q&As posted earlier on the blog).

My dogs go crazy when someone comes to the house

The question:

HELP My three Chihuahuas go crazy when anyone enters my house. Two of them even nip at guests. The youngest is especially bad and the other two follow along. How do I get them to act well around guests. I have tried having the guest give them treats but they take the treats but still bark and nip.

Tips for having your dog interact with a visitor to your house

I have a dog who has issues with people coming into the house. This behavior can certainly be amplified with multiple dogs. I’m quite lucky my dogs are very different and I have to only deal with one, but this isn’t the case when they see outdoor vermin! What you are probably dealing with is your dogs being made more “confident” as they are together. One is feeding off the other, being “bolstered”. As such I’d have a couple of recommendations:

  1. Don’t have your visitors provide treats directly to your dogs. This can have an inadvertent effect of “rewarding” the behavior, whether it’s fear or whatever else they’re feeling. They could even be thinking “hey, when I get this food I can then nip” linking the unwanted behaviors with the food.

    For the safety of your visitors, I always like to train dogs to be rewarding for moving *away* from the guest at first. You can do this by having your guest (or even you at first) tossing the treat over the dog’s head and away from the humans. This does two things: your dog relaxes by moving away from the guest and is rewarded for this. Secondly, your dog can’t nip your guest this way. I only *ever* have my fearful dogs take treats from a human when they voluntarily approach in a calm manner. Then they’re being rewarded for the right feelings and wanted behavior. I hope this helps.

  2. Try to work with your dogs one on one. This will probably mean putting two of them in a separate room or crate (wherever they can be calm and out of sight) when working with the third dog. This of course is time-consuming, but it’s quite important. They need to work on these behaviors on their own before they work in groups. Then you need to progress to working with them together. Take baby steps though: working on training two dogs together is much more difficult that individuals. It’s quite important though because you are dealing with nipping, and this is quite serious regardless of dog size.

And don’t hesitate to work with a trainer. They can be a great help in things like this.

A couple notes for more severe fear issues

Depending on the severity of the issue, the very first step before having your dog interact at all with a visitor is having them learn to be calm at a distance. This could be in another area of the house entirely if it’s a severe issue. Having a safe, quiet, calm area of the house with things to distract your dog can be very helpful. For example, a puzzle toy, stuffed Kong, calming music and so on. Whatever you know that distracts and calms your dog. Once they learn to be in the same house as a visitor, you can progress to being in a crate in the same room, and so on.

Once your dog can be at least managed in the same room within a crate, then progress to a dragging leash, and finally loose and start with the exercise noted previously. If you have issues with people coming to the door too, you might want to also check out this post I wrote earlier on the subject.

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.