How to get my dog to behave when I have tradespeople in my house?
During the week, I had a glazier come to my house to replace some windows. I have a young, exuberant dog who is not very experienced with tradespeople working around the house. I knew that without intervention, my dog was likely to bark, jump on the glazier and pester him for attention, run about excitedly, and potentially run through open doors and gates. This type of behaviour is not acceptable to me but more importantly it is a safety risk for everyone including the dog.
So here was my plan for having my dog behave like an angel, even under distraction.
Step 1 – Know how the dog is likely to behave without intervention
Imagine how your dog is likely to behave if you do nothing. Ask yourself “do I like this behaviour, do I want more of this behaviour?” If you answer “Yes” then no further action is needed, just let your dog be themselves when tradespeople come over.
If you answer “No”, then imagine how you want your dog to behave. Put their behaviour in terms of what you DO want not what you DON’T want.
So for me, while the glazier was working, I wanted my dog to feel safe and confident, so he could be quiet and still.
Step 2 – Devise your plan
Now you know what you want, you can devise your plan for achieving your goal. When coming up with your plan consider the following:
- Type of work being performed (sights, sounds, smells),
- Area of the house / yard impacted,
- Duration of the work,
- Who else will be at home,
- What do you need to do at the same time as the tradespeople are working
You may need to speak with your tradesperson about the likely equipment they will use, the noise levels and if any of their materials are likely to emit an odour. I have found that if you explain that you want to prepare your dog for their visit, most tradespeople are very pleased to give you this information so they can go about their work safely and without worrying about an out of control dog.
Finally, consider what behaviours your dog knows well and can perform confidently.
For me, the glazier was only going to be working in one area of the house but he would need to pass by the door of my office several times. There was going to be minimal noise and the work would only take about one hour. There was going to someone else at home with me who could liaise with the glazier. I needed to continue working in my office while the glazier was working.
My dog knows mat/bed very well and regularly performs it under distraction.
So, based on these considerations, my plan was to ask my dog relax on their bed in my office with me. I would have the dog on lead to ensure he didn’t move off his bed when the tradespeople passed by the office. I would reinforce staying on his bed with food rewards.
Despite your best planning, things can go wrong. Your dog may be unable to perform the behaviours you have asked of them or the work may take longer than planned, so come up with a Plan B. My Plan B was for my dog to pop into his crate in the bedroom with a tasty bone. I could take my laptop and keep my dog company with the door closed to minimise noise. As part of my planning, I had the crate set up in the bedroom and a bone thawed.
Other options you may consider are to take the dog out for a walk or a drive to a local park.
Step 3 – Be prepared
You know what you want, so now get ready.
- Ensure your dog’s basic needs have been met i.e. the dog is well exercised, they are not hungry, and they have toileted.
- Have your equipment ready e.g. treats, toys, leads, head halters, beds, crates etc. If part of your plan is to take your dog out in the car, then make sure your car is in position and won’t be parked in by the tradesperson’s vehicle.
- Communicate to other family members their role in your dog’s success plan. If applicable, you may also need to communicate to the tradesperson about where to park or which door or gate to use etc. I also recommend telling the tradesperson what the dog will be doing so they don’t attempt to greet the dog, if that is not part of your plan.
- Ask the tradesperson to call or text before arriving so you can get the dog set up.
Step 4 – Implement your plan
When the tradesperson arrives, you simply need to implement your plan. Remember you always have a Plan B to fall back on if things go awry!
Regardless of how well your dog is doing, stay with your plan. Remember, past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour. So by sticking with your plan, you are conditioning the dog to behave this way when you have tradespeople at your home in the future.
I am pleased to report that my boy happily lay on his bed next to me while I worked and nibbled on treats as I dropped them to him. The glazier walked past our door several times and my dog looked at him calmly and stayed relaxed on his bed.
For assistance with devising a plan for your dog to behave like an angel when you have work done at your house, please chat with your Teamwork Dogs trainer. Teamwork Dogs offers group training classes for puppies, teenage and adult dogs. Classes are offered at Taigum on Saturday mornings and Caboolture on Sunday mornings.
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