April 27, 2010 10:54 PM

Dear Ethel,

We have two large American bulldogs. They are sweet as can be, but when people come to the door, they are nuts. They jump, claw and push their way to our guests, and they also do this when I get home. It’s not aggressive behavior, just uber-crazy excitement. I eventually want to get pregnant, but I’m afraid I won’t get in the door with my big belly and two maniac dogs.

I love my dogs so much – but when I come home at night, just coming in the door puts me in a terrible mood. How can I keep them from going nuts when someone comes in the door?

–Two Big Dogs, One Door


My owner dated someone once, this guy who was so enthusiastic about her and so breathless to see her every waking minute that eventually she got sick of it and left.

Your maniac bulldogs are pushing you down (and away) with their eagerness to greet you, but keep in mind that they’re just doing it out of love, not to mention their naturally friendly behavior.

It doesn’t sound like it should work, but Columbus-based dog trainer Dawn Pribble, of Positive Pups, says you need to start ignoring the dogs when you’re coming and going.

Act calmly and don’t acknowledge your babies. Leaving the house? No big thing. Getting home from a long day at work? Insignificant. If they start to go crazy at the door, don’t get upset with them. Just walk back out and wait until they calm down before you come in again. The same instructions apply for your guests.

In tandem, to train them out of their practiced habit of knocking people over when they come in, you need to work on getting your pooches to sit or stay in a spot away from the door. Give them a mat or a bed, a designated spot, for them to stay. Tell them to stay, then walk toward the door. Only release them from the stay if they’re calm. If they’ve got that down, walk to the door and open it. Following that, walk to the door and jiggle the doorknob.

“If at any point, the dog gets up from the stay before you give them permission, you have to start over again,” Pribble says.

Oof. Like with anything, practice makes perfect, and practice will take time. But don’t lose hope – your dogs can learn to restrain themselves, with your help.


Got a thorny pet (any pet!) problem that you can’t figure out? Try Ethel – she’ll do her best to help. Send your questions to helin@peoplepets.com.

Previously in Ask Ethel:
Ask Ethel: Can This Dog Learn to Pee on a Leash?
Ask Ethel: Why Can’t These Neighbor Dogs Get Along?

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