How can I break my dogs of this dangerous habit?

Question: My 1-year-old mixed boxer dog continues to get under everyone’s feet when guests walk through the door. I’m afraid he is going to trip and hurt someone. How can I break him of this dangerous habit?

Trying to break a dog from a habit usually involves scolding, shooing away, banishing or other unpleasantness. However, with a dog who wants attention, as yours seems to, this can backfire because the punishment itself is attention.

Up until know you have focused on trying to stop the behavior you don’t like, but this approach hasn’t worked. Try a different tactic: Decide on a behavior that you would prefer when people arrive, then train him using treats and positive attention as rewards.

Teach the new behavior, such as “sit” or “down,” when there are no visitor distractions. If you give your dog a rug or dog bed to lie on, it will help him learn this. When he knows the new behavior, go outside momentarily, close the door, then re-enter the house. Tell your dog to do the new behavior and reward him with treats and attention. If he decides he’d rather get underfoot, calmly step back outside and close the door. Wait 30 seconds and try again.

When he accomplishes the new behavior, add other people to the situation.

Each time your dog does the appropriate greeting behavior, reward him with petting, praise and yummy treats. If he reverts to getting underfoot, calmly leave and close the door. It may take several weeks, but the more consistent you are, the more quickly your dog will learn. When he consistently performs the new greeting behavior, wean him off the treats and use praise and attention as rewards.

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