Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tips for Calmer Pets During (OMG!) Tradesmen Visits

If your dogs are anything like ours, they get VERY EXCITED when people come over. I'd love to have chill, dignified dogs who casually glance over at newcomers, but that's just not how it is around here. We don't get many visitors, and of those visitors, unfortunately and inconveniently, not all of them are professional positive reinforcement dog trainers. OK, none of them are. Frankly, James and I are are not very well-socialized ourselves, so we can hardly expect the dogs to be.

The cat is easy: I make sure he has access to a quiet, cozy retreat, and offer him treats and pats (and cooing) if he ventures out. I pretty much talk to my pets the entire time visitors are here. I gave myself permission to be that crazy pet lady, in the interest of managing situations and making sure they are having positive experiences. I'm a childless woman post-forty. Everybody expects this of me, anyway.

Initially, with the dogs, we tried a complicated system that involved visitors ignoring them until they calmed down, and then asking guests to reward them. This was hit or miss, because it relied on the dog-savvy of visitors, and their absolute compliance. We were asking people to help us train our dogs, and that was potentially frustrating for all involved. Most people were not stopping by to help us deal with our dogs.

Our current system works much better. First, since they are not good with surprise visitors, I give the dogs a heads-up. I say "Plumbers are coming." (I used to announce different vocations, but decided it was ridiculous to expect the dogs to differentiate between different types of tradesmen.) I explained to the insulation guys, "I told them plumbers were coming. They consider all tradesmen plumbers." They were A-OK with that. I basically want to alert my dogs 'Someone is coming over. You probably don't know them. Probably a man/men. Probably big. They will brings tools in, and start using them on your house.'

Then the treats come out. When the "plumbers" arrive, the dogs are sent to their beds and showered in treats. They bark, and their first inclination is to rush the door, but we send them back to their beds. Bed=treat storm. Off bed=nada. James/I go to the door and greet the VERY EXCITING PERSON. Then we get tennis balls, and one of us rushes outside with dogs in tow, explaining to our visitor that the dogs need to blow off steam when people first arrive, then they calm down. Half the time, the Plumbers oblige by playing a few minutes of fetch with us. (We are lucky to live in a dog-friendly place. Almost everyone has dogs here and doesn't mind mixing it up with them.)

Then the dogs come in somewhat winded, and are sent to their beds for more treats. They are allowed to visit the Plumbers when calm, and when invited. Pippi is an extrovert, and 'calm' is a relative term for her. We settle for enthusiastic, affectionate wiggling.

The success of this method comes down to the fact James and I are in control. We don't ask anyone else to do anything (but if they want to join in, that's great), and the dogs know the drill.

"Plumbers are coming." They are intrigued, and peering down the driveway
expectantly, but not nearly as amped as they could be.

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