No Party Zone

Yesterday My Brown Newfies wrote about the trying behaviours her dogs perform when she hosts gatherings at her house. Reading through the comments I was increasingly surprised by the number of people who commiserated with problems of their own. There were a lot of dogs who steal food from tables and drool on unsuspecting relatives. I think mine was the only comment out of fifty that went something like this:

“Guests? In our house?? With our dog??? Are you joking????”

Am I truly the only one who avoids having people over at all costs? Maybe Shiva really is a monster after all.

Or maybe I just don’t give her enough credit.

As you know, Shiva’s fears have been greatly reduced over the years. Sometimes I wonder if we did too good a job at restoring her confidence. One area we have grossly neglected has been her in-house greeting manners. And when I say neglected I mean she has none.

Shiva has always been territorial. It sounds like such an awful word but it just means she can be protective of her space. It’s not something we planned for or trained, it’s just in her nature to watch out for her own when it comes to intruders. What constitutes “her space” is only something Shiva can define. For instance, if picnicking in the park, our blanket is her zone to patrol. However, in agility class, she doesn’t bat an eye if another dog or person approaches her mat. Don’t ask me what the difference is.

Naturally, our home is definitely hers to defend. She isn’t going to attack anyone – at least, I hope she won’t – but she will definitely let a person know she isn’t thrilled with them being there. It can be comforting at times, even if hardly ideal. If I am alone with her at night, she will even bark at my PH when he comes in the door. It’s nice to know she is looking out for me.

Now we probably would have worked on this barking and charging a lot more if we were more social people. It’s just not been a big enough deal. We have focused our energies on outdoor issues, things that affect our daily lives. The only strangers who have ever entered our home are delivery drives, maintenance workers, and our landlords.

Which leads me to a brief story.

On Friday last week our prospective landlords wanted to come by our home to meet us and get everything finalized. Of course, this sent me into a state of absolute panic. They were going to come by around 5:30 and we both get off at 5, giving us about fifteen minutes to stash the dog.

We got home as fast as we could, pull into the driveway, and notice a car sitting outfront with a gentleman waiting inside. My PH looks at me.

“Is that him?”

“Shit, shit, shit!”

Before the man can get out of his vehicle, I – as nonchalantly as I can manage – emerge from our truck and head inside our house. While my PH stalls our future landlord and our future hopes and dreams, I grab as many treats as I can and guide Shiva downstairs to our bedroom. The Cat is lounging on the bed so I pick him up, dump him in the hallway, throw the treats on the floor, and close the bedroom door in my dog’s face, all with my heart in my throat.

Amazingly not a peep was heard from our crazy dog the entire time the gentleman was in our home. I am still pretty shocked about it, to tell the truth. She didn’t give away any evidence she was even there. As soon as his car drove away, I flung open the door and we had the biggest party the Shivster has ever seen.

Maybe I’ve misjudged her?

Are we really the only ones who have a choreographed routine for ordering pizza? Do you think it’s absolutely necessary for dogs to enjoy having strangers in their home?


Time for more kitties! For Petfinder’s Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, each day I am sharing the stories of a few of the cats waiting for their forever homes.

 Here is Lyman at Potters Angels Rescue in Vermont. One doesn’t see that many pure white cats very often and Lyman is quite eye-catching as a result. He’ll take as much attention as he can get and enjoys playing other cats and children.



To the right is adorable and adoptable Athena at the Central Conneticut Cat Project. Unlike my cat, she loves to have her belly rubbed and will readily flip over to give access. Athena has perfect manners and would make the perfect addition to any home.

36 thoughts on “No Party Zone

  1. I totally don’t think it’s weird to have a routine for when visitors come over. And seeing as most dogs love routine, it would probably make the visits less stressful since it’s all part of something they’ve done before.
    I’m kind of lucky with Mufaasa in that he’s really friendly to everybody and pretty good about not jumping on new people. He also almost never barks (usually in response to a dog in the distance, though if it sounds like it’s in the building with us he usually doesn’t make a peep). Of course, he comes to work with me so he meets new people every day.
    My last dog was a rottie/shepherd mix and a bit more protective, but she would just make a scary sounding couple of barks and then run over and viciously lick the hand of however came in.
    Have you tried the kong trick with Shiva? You keep a kong or whatever stuffed with something really delicious and keep it in the freezer, and it only comes out when strangers are at the door. You take it, put it on her mate or in her crate, and by the time she’s finished the person has been in the house for a few minutes and it takes the edge off (and visitors are associated with delicious frozen goodness). Of course, this only works if you can find a food yummy enough to override her desire to go see a person, but you could start with her tied to a wall or locked in her crate until she gets the routine down.


  2. I have 4 dogs, so I have no control over them when people come over. They bark and jump all over whomever comes to the door. But it’s mostly people they know, and those people know what to expect from the dogs. The jumping is a bit of a problem, and my one cattle dog mix has been known to nip in his excitement. But they LIKE people. And after 5 minutes, all is quiet and they go about their business and don’t bother us anymore. I have always wished they would be calmer upon someone coming to the door, but frankly, I’ve never done anything about it, so I have no one to blame but myself. I am sometimes overwhelmed at the thought of trying to control 4 dogs and hence to nothing. But I have people over to my house all the time, so it’s only a problem for that first 5 mintue greeting. And I always warn any newcomer that they will be jumped upon.


  3. Absolutely not… there is no reason for Dogs to enjoy strangers at their house. But sometimes it would be good to have them liking strangers.

    With Pluto we have an absolutely opposite problem. He gets so excited when someone shows up and shakes his behind with such vigor that people are knocked out right and left by it…

    But whether trained or untrained….once you share your home with a canine, you can’t really expect him/her to behave like humans do and suppress their true feelings about visitors, can we? And I believe its not right for us to do so, either.


  4. Shiva is not overwhelming when you come in the door – she barks. I think when dogs bark they are asking the alpha person – you – is this ok that this person is in your “den”. She is not agressive – but I see nothing wrong with the bark.
    Kita barks if someone comes to the door or comes in the house – I like it – if I am busy she makes me aware when someone is around and I find that comforting.


  5. It’s good, and safe, to have a routine for your dog when people come over. It shouldn’t rule your life, though!

    Your dog shouldn’t need to be thrilled with strangers at the house; indeed, we do try to avoid that kind of casual acceptance. But my general rule of thumb with Elka is that if I’ve said something is all right, then it isn’t her problem any longer.

    Being the “host house” for our gaming group, we have a circle of friends that’s over pretty regularly throughout the week, so she’s always thrilled when they arrive. Heck, she even goes to the door and looks out when I tell her we’ve ordered pizza. When the pizza guy gets there, though, she is to be back from the door, and if she can’t handle that herself, then somebody holds her or I send her to the kitchen.


  6. We’ve found that keeping the dogs in the backyard keeps visitors from being scared sh**less by Sadie’s “I’m a big, scary pit bull” routine or knocked over by Maggie’s hip-checking them at the door. Are they perfect when they do get to say hello? Nope. But Sadie barks less & warms up to new people faster & visitors are usually sitting so Maggie does her “I’m the greatest lap dog in the world” thing instead of knocking them over. Hurley is virtually perfect with visitors but that’s because he was at work with me as a puppy so nicely greeting people is what he considers his job. They are a bazillion times better than they used to be – part practice, part maturity in effect. Like everything with dogs, their behavior is dependent upon repetition. If you don’t have a lot of visitors, managing with a kong or being crated at first is probably your best bet.


  7. I used to have a routine for the last cattle dog mix I owned. I had her for almost 14 years – so I just grew accustomed to bribing her to go into the back bedroom. She only tolerated a few family members enough that I could let her interact with them.

    With Blueberry I haven’t found out yet how she’ll do with strangers. But she’s so gentle with everyone she meets, I think if she takes my cue, she won’t be worried about anyone coming into the house.


  8. Hi Kristine, we sadly have not had too many people come over. It’s just “easier” and less fraught with uncertainty if we meet people for dinner at a restaurant. Some people are not happy about excited dogs.


  9. My dogs function as a little Welcome Wagon, greeting visitors with dances of joy and offering to show them where the family silver and costume jewelry is stashed. I thought (hoped) with four dogs at least one of them would serve as a guard dog, but no, they are all little hosts and hostesses.


  10. Sampson and Delilah are enthusiastic with visitors. I do try and have them sit at the top of the stairs and wait until our guests get in the door. I need to work on this because it is usually an epic fail. We have a small deck on the front of our house and if I’m fast enough, I say “who’s here” and run to the deck. Then I lock them on it until the guests have entered. As many others have said, it is usually just the first few minutes, then they settle down.

    I think it’s your house and your dog and you can do whatever you want. 🙂


  11. I can’t remember the last time we had someone at our house. Not that the dogs would not enjoy it, but with as many as we have roaming around, the person would be covered in slobber & hair.


  12. I guess it depends upon how much you enjoy having company. We don’t have many parties, but I love having company and I love sharing my dogs with my company! (The feeling is not always mutual.) Brooks is easy, he just calmly sits in front of whoever he can and looks into their eyes as they pat him. Kelly is a bit more of a nuisance. Others don’t seem to find her habit of jumping up onto the couch, kissing their faces and climbing onto the back of the couch upon their shoulders quite as endearing as I do. While I usually attempt to stop this behavior, I actually truly wish that my company would enjoy the assertive doggie attention just as much as I do! Oh well!


  13. Good girl, Shiva! Glad that the whole “encounter” (or lack thereof) went smoothly, at least from the landlord’s point of view!

    We have TONS of house guests, so even though Pyrrha is a shy dog, she’s just had to adapt to them and go with the flow. Her only “bad behavior” with guests is the shyness, which is not necessarily a vice. She’s not protective; she doesn’t bark or jump; she just lies down in the corner and watches people.

    The strange thing I’ve noticed with her, though, is that after guests are over for a few hours, she starts to really open up to them and invite them to play with her. It’s very touching to me, to see this dog who could be so frozen with fear around new people suddenly decide that, “Hey, strange humans are in my house… and I… think… I am OK with it.”


  14. Yeah, I’ve been there. With Agatha and Christie, it was worrying about their barking and menacing anyone who came to the cook. With Honey, it’s worrying that she’ll jump into someone’s lap and kill them with love.

    Of course I sometimes wonder how much I fed A & C’s cautiousness by being so anxious. Dogs feed on our emotional energy. I think you need to have a few cold ones and practice your Drunken Master approach to visitors.


  15. It certainly helps with our dogs if we get people in the house and sitting before the dogs get to come out and met them. Larry calms down much sooner if people aren’t walking around.
    However, we do have to prevent visitors from sitting on the couch, as it is right in front of the window, and the dogs will run up anyone to get a good view outside if they think something is going on.


  16. I used to worry about kiddies coming over (not that I know too many of those) when Georgia was young and hyper. Not anymore though. She gets along with humans really well because she’s sussed out that they’re dispensers of food.

    I’m more interested in your prospective landlord’s visit. Doesn’t he know you have pets? Unless he’s completely blind and has a stuffed nose, he would surely have noticed some sign of animals in the house? Well, that is unless you cleaned every dog and cat furball from the carpet and couch and lit an aromatherapy candle before he came in 😉


  17. Hi All, our two pups aren’t too bad but they do bark and run to the front door when visitors arrive. Because Rory is so tall a lot of people are a little overawed by him and he is a very slobbery boy. Once they have met people they settle and relax and don’t bother anyone too much. Our previous dog, did not like visitors at all and I was always anxious (which probably did not do any good towards the situation) and I preferred if he was outside when someone came over. Loved this post and we went to visit the Brown Newfies and loved theirs too. No worries, and love, Carol (and Stella and Rory)


  18. We do have a pizza routine!

    The dogs get bundled into their crates and they get a rawhide chew. They still bark and grumble, but it’s better then having them arguing *with each other* at the door – one dog barks ‘HI HI COME IN COME IN’ the other dog barks ‘GO AWAY OR I’LL … GO AWAY I SAY’ and then they start barking at each other, and then they get into a knock down drag out ARGUMENT about it. It’s like chihuahua and rat terrier pit fighting… YIKES! (but no blood, all sass and yelling)

    Working on a door routine has been on my ‘should’ list since I got the terrier … oh… 7 years ago.

    If you have a fall-back plan that works (and it sounds like yours does) I’d stick with that until you get the energy to work that training in. (That one takes so much energy.)


  19. Great save Kristine!! Glad Shiva was so good. 🙂 It all sounds so awfully familiar – we need to worry about Leah barking and telling people they are not welcome, plus Toby will plow them over if they have any packages resembling food, and with Meadow we worry that she might get scared and run PAST them, right out the door!

    So greetings go like this, Toby and Meadow in crates, Leah leashed and in the hall behind a baby gate. Then after the people are settled – AND SITTING – Leah meets them first, then Toby, then Meadow…its nuts, but it is our own “Choreographed routine” and it works. 🙂


  20. Duke has a hound dog “woo woo woo” bark when anyone enters the yard, and Maggie barks like a much bigger dog. They stop when they realize that we want the visitors to come in, but we have the opposite problem of most dog owners. We have to tell visitors to ignore the dogs, since they’re shy and don’t warm up to people right away. Maggie will walk up behind people and sneak sniff them if they’re here long enough, but won’t let anyone else touch her. Duke tends to shake at first when new people come over, but gradually relaxes if they ignore him. Yeah, they’re awkward.


  21. I was surprised too about the amount of people who have dogs that commit party fouls too! I seriously thought I was one of the few who had poorly behaved dogs at parties! In their defense I think they are just following in my footsteps.

    I wait outside for the pizza guy, I can’t even imagine trying to open the door with the dogs on one side and the pizza on the other!


    • OK, that is absolutely brilliant–wait outside for the delivery! Now, I just need to convince my lazy husband to get on that (I don’t like to deal with the delivery people because math makes me feel faint).


  22. When Saydee was staying with us we worried about having people over. We didn’t have a superbowl party because of it ;( We just decided that it wasn’t really worth stressing her out. It sounds like Shiva would be fine as long as your gave her some direction 🙂

    Cali assumes that everyone is here to see her 🙂


  23. Both of my dogs are fine with people coming over. But, I don’t really have people over much. Occasionally family will stop by for a minute normally to pick me up for something or drop something off for me, etc. Pallo barks at people if they come up to our door, Koira just leaps up onto the bed (studio apartment) so that it is as easy as possible to lick the people in the face as they come in the door.


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  25. I feel your pain! Pearl is absolutely AWFUL about guests, she barks at delivery people and is even worse when she knows our guests- she jumps all over them, licks them, and generally makes herself a really large, scratching, pawing, wagging pest. I also find its easier to just not have people over, but its hard because I can’t have my best friend over to study or watch a movie without crating the dog and having my heart break with her whining (or having her on a leash and dealing with her lunging and struggling the whole time) and wow don’t get me started on my landlord, Pearl loves him so much she might want to eat him- I would swear he is sneaking her puppy crack. If she sees him or his wife she almost has a seizure with excitement, I should videotape it.


  26. Oh do you think it was a test by your new landlord to drop by expected, but not? Sounds like Shiva did great. I have said before that Chessies can be protective of their places or their their things. It is from way, way back in their breeding and was a trait specifically selected for. Thunder is not that protective unless he senses something and then he will put himself between us and the perceived threat. Storm will just bark her fool head off. Freighter…too soon to tell. We don’t really have to worry about having people over, but with three dogs, are people really interested in coming here?…lol.

    Thunder/Freighter’s breeder has a most interesting way to introduce people to the dogs in her home. When someone new comes in, she will look at her dogs and touch the person on the arm and say it is OK and wait just long enough until the dog appears to acknowledge or relax. She said if a stranger needs to come into the home (like a repair guy), she would not do that. I found it interesting.


  27. I think every dog is different and every person is different so people should just do what feels comfortable for them. We used to dread having company with Fred and even tried to avoid it, but it is now getting better. 🙂


  28. We absolutely LOVE to entertain, so Desmond can pretty much stuff it whether he wants us to have a party or not. I’ve given up many things for Mr. Crazy Pants over here, and I refuse to let him take my parties away.

    Luckily, the worst thing he does around lots of people is stare at their food, whine, and try to lead people where he wants them to go by grabbing their hand with his mouth (OK, we know that last one is really, really bad. We’ve got him trained not to do it to us–he knows to get a toy when he has that urge–but no matter how many times we tell other people not to ever let him do it, they ignore us. They think it’s cute. FACEPALM). In fact, after the first few parties we had, he seemingly decided he’d rather not even deal with everyone and retreat to our bed instead. Works for me!


  29. Never had problems with Jersey when guests or food delivery was at the door. Now that Dexter is here, they BOTH bark when the doorbell rings. Dexter is still a little jumpy/excited when people come in but *we* are working on it.


  30. hmm.. its a dog instinct to bark to someone that is new to our house, because dogs are territorial and protective to their love ones but when they will know who the guest are, that’s the time they will get friendly. That’s what usually observe to them.


  31. Ugh, I feel your pain!!! We haven`t spent nearly enough time working on Kobi`s door manners, and Kobi, like Shiva, barks at any possible intruder. The worst is when my fiance comes home at 6 in the morning after working a night shift and Kobi goes crazy barking up a storm to stop the intruder (I don`t care but I feel bad for my neighbours).
    The way our apartment is set up we have a flight of stairs between our front door and our apartment, making any sort of door training next to impossible and when people come in they get rushed by Scout and Kobi. Scout says his hello and wanders off while Kobi is sooooooooo beyond excited someone is there (after he figures out they aren`t scary intruders) and jumps all over them. We`re moving in september and I am soooo excited to have a normal doorway to train Kobi to properly greet people with.


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