Dogs, Friends, delivery folk and Mormons meet at our front door and it’s Mayhem!
As I write this, trying to elevate the conversation of the human-dog relationship, Toby, our Great Pyrenees, is chasing his tail.
The upshot of this is that although dogs can teach us a lot, sometimes they’re just dogs, content to sleep on couches, eat, poop, chase each other around, bark up a storm and chase their tails.
It doesn’t seem to matter what breed or mix of breed we’ve had, German Shepherd-mix, collie, Bernese Mountain Dogs, the aforementioned Great Pyrenees, or chihuahua-mix. Once they’re in our house, they all seem to adopt the same “Katie-bar-the-door” love of chaos. The common denominator appears to be, um, us. Although no trainer we’ve ever worked with has told us that flat out.
We are holding out hope for Toby. Great Pyrenees are supposed to be chill, but he’s only two (we think) and still has that puppy energy right now.
The portal to the crazy is often our front door. (Although our German Shepherd, Sombra, did go through a screen window once to be with us.)
We have done everything that our trainers have suggested. We have treats stationed by the door. This has demonstrated one of the most frightening aspects of some dogs: those who care not about treats. With some of our canines, we could use hot dogs, and they would not be distracted from their mission of alerting us that someone is on the other side of the door!
To attenuate them, we have practiced knocking and coming in and out of the door.
To no avail. They all could tell the difference between our efforts and an actual live stranger. Yet weirdly, none of them could distinguish between a person and the wind blowing the trees in front.
When we’d have friends over— which is rare because of the chaos — the drill goes like this:
Everyone knows to call us first—no surprise visits. So it was wild when the Mormons came, and a couple of non-Mormon-like words were uttered.
With that knowledge, we assemble at the door because it takes more than one person to manage what might happen. Then we make a plan. Someone has to a) Put the dogs outside in the back. All that causes is an uproar of barking and scratching on doors that makes conversation impossible. b) Sometimes, when we are hopeful, we choose to keep the dogs with us, let them get to know our friends, and see what happens. Usually, that means Laurie and I are holding dogs and collars, explaining that the dogs won’t bite, but they are just enthusiastic.
The last strategy is to put them in a bedroom and hope for the best. After a few trial and error attempts, we abandoned this approach. Not only because of the damage inflicted but also because most of our dogs learned how to open doors. When we try this, Laurie and I become terrible conversationalists because we are keenly focused on hearing a doorknob creak open. When it does, we are confronted with two or three dogs storming down the hallway, terrifying our guests, wanting to be the center of attention. (which they usually are).
Finally, in full disclosure — stop me if I’m being a bit defensive — we need to talk about nipping.
Most dogs, at one time or another, will nip. This is not a full-on bite (that can have a force of over 250psi for a dog. You’ll know it when it happens). But, when dogs are playing or excited, they often nip. Here I must take full blame. With all our dogs, I’ve played rough and tumble chasing games. Sometimes they have grabbed my shirt to hang on to me. Sometimes our tug of war gets out of hand. So, as a trainer pointed out to me, I have been teaching them that nipping is fun! Go for it! Even if it’s a guy fixing our fridge! Yay!
Thus we have had front-door excited dog incidents of nipping. The most infamous was when my brother (a dog person) burst through our front door where our German shepherd, Zuni, was dead asleep. Zuni jumped up, barked, and nipped. I think I mentioned something like “letting sleeping dogs lie.” But then, at Laurie’s insistence, I offered an apology. But come on, my brother grew up in a house with that sign: Don’t get out of your car! Dogs!” He should have known. . .