It is hard work to train our dog to listen to us and be well-behaved in the house.
Which is why it is so embarrassing when they are completely unruly when you have visitors. Barking, growling, jumping, or hiding are unwanted behaviors, and when you have visitors your dog might ignore you when you are trying to correct them. It is like you have never done any training!
So why does your dog ignore you when you have visitors?
The most likely reason your dog ignores you when you have visitors is because they are under-socialized and overstimulated. They have trouble controlling their emotions making it difficult to listen to you. Visitors also could cause your dog to be anxious or they may not like them.
So let’s explore the reasons why your dog might ignore you when you have visitors over. From being over-excited to anxiety, we will look at some solutions to help calm down your dog and get them in a state of mind where they can listen to you when you have visitors.
Why Does My Dog Ignore Me When I Have Visitors
There are many different ways that your dog can ignore you when you have visitors. It could look like jumping or barking at your guests while you hopelessly try to call them back. They might even ignore you while jumping and zooming around around your visitors. This sounds like over-stimulation and your dog is expressing their pent-up excitement.
Other dogs might seem frightened or stressed which could stem from a lack of socialization or a bad experience.
Whatever it is, something has put your dog in a frenzied emotional state of mind where they have a difficult time listening to you when you have visitors.
Reason 1. Under-Socialization
According to the Animal Humane Society, “Socializing your dog through puppyhood and adolescence is one of the best ways to ensure that they become a friendly and confident adult.”
Socializing around people does not necessarily mean being touched or being given treats by every stranger. While it is not bad to have strangers give your dog the occasional treat, your dog should also learn that they get rewarded when they ignore strangers and focus on you instead. You need to socialize inside and outside of the house, so your dog learns to focus in a variety of places.
Part of being a friendly and confident dog includes being calm and having the ability to listen to you when you have visitors over. This means training around and exposing them to a variety of other people, dogs, and new places. If your dog has not been around people outside of your immediate household family they could easily become over-excited or stressed and ignore you when you have visitors.
Reason 2. Your Dog Is Overstimulated
If you have a dog that loves people, visitors coming over can be incredibly exciting. Look how excited the dog in the video below is about new people.
Even well-socialized dogs might not be able to handle the sudden change and excitement of visitors and could have a temporary brain melt and ignore you.
That is because excitement can turn into overstimulation. Having guests over might not the only environment where your dog becomes overstimulated. Basically, there are so many exciting stimuli that your dog cannot think, listen, or cope with. It is like their brain has turned off making it impossible for them to listen to you when you have visitors.
Reason 3. Your Dog Is Anxious
Sometimes your dog ignoring you when you have visitors is not as dramatic as unwanted barking and jumping. It might look like your dog cowering or hiding.
Anxiety and stress are connected to overstimulation, but instead of jumping and barking, they run and hide and will not come out no matter how much you call them. Yelling and trying to force them out will stress them out more.
Your dog could also be picking up on your emotions. Research shows how empathetic dogs are and how easily they are affected when we are happy, excited, scared, or anxious. When we are excited they might get the zoomies, when we are anxious they will also be stressed, making it hard for them to listen to you.
If you are like me, while it is fun to have visitors, it can also be stressful. Is my house clean, is dinner going to be ready on time, will they like dessert? Dogs easily pick up on that anxiety.
Whether your dog was not socialized with strangers or had a traumatic experience, it is clear that something about your visitors is making them anxious and they feel the need to hide. Other signs your dog is anxious about having visitors include hiding, pacing, drooling, or panting.
Reason 4. Your Dog Does Not Like Visitors
Different dogs will react to visitors differently depending on their personality and breed. Some get over-excited while jumping and barking. Others might become protective. Meanwhile, some dogs are not social butterflies and remain detached and will ignore you when there are visitors.
Some dogs are naturally aloof like the Great Pyrenees, while other dogs might have had a bad experience or trauma causing them to be nervous around your visitors.
Reason 5. Your Dog Is Being Protective
Dogs might not like having strangers because they are protective. But visitors are usually different than strangers, so it is upsetting and scary when your normally well-behaved dog not only ignores you but begins acting protective of you, barking, growling, and maybe even lunging.
Resource guarding is often mistaken for protectiveness, and can lead to aggression. Your dog is controlling important resources (in this case you) with defensiveness body language and is too overstimulated to listen to you. Zak Brown has a great video about what resource guarding looks like and how to use positive reinforcement to change the behavior.
How Can I Change My Dog’s Behavior
The big question is, what do you want your dog’s behavior to look like when you have guests over? Obviously, you do not want them jumping, barking, or growling on top of ignoring you. So how do you get them to greet your guests calmly, focus on a toy, or stay in their bed or their crate?
It might seem easy to yell or intimidate your dog into listening to you when they are bothering visitors and ignoring you.
However, yelling does not teach your dog what the behavior is that you want. It simply trains them to avoid punishment or even that if you are yelling something scary is happening and they might ignore you and think the visitor is a threat and over-excitement could turn into more dangerous protective behavior.
Instead, use positive reinforcement and reward them for the behavior you want. This will help them understand what behavior you are looking for as well as build trust in your relationship.
Here are some ways you can use positive-based training to teach your dog to not ignore you when you have visitors over.
In the dog training world, redirection means you are replacing an unwanted behavior with a more acceptable behavior. For example, your dog barks at cars. When you see a car coming throw a toy for them to chase. They start to associate the car with chasing a toy, and once reinforced enough your dog will instinctively choose the toy over barking at a car.
While grabbing a toy is a good idea in certain cases, you might want to condition a calming behavior for your dog to redirect to over ignoring you when you have visitors.
Throwing a treat inside their crate or on their bed will teach them that they have a specific and safe place to go instead of barking at visitors. Once settled, your dog learns how to calm themselves from their overstimulated state to properly greet your guests.
Kikopup has a great tutorial on teaching “Go to your bed.”
Try An Enriching Toy
Whether your dog is overstimulated, anxious, or scared, giving them an enriching toy will distract them from bothering your visitors. Interactive toys can also be self-soothing for dogs, allowing them to not lose their brains and not lose the ability to listen.
There are plenty of enrichment toys you can buy at your local pet store in which you can hide or freeze food. Or you can make your own like the ones in this DIY video.
Start by separating them from your visitors in their crate or another room with their toy. Once your dog is comfortable, let them have it around your guest. This shapes the behavior of being calm around visitors as well as creating an atmosphere where they do not get so overstimulated that they ignore you.
Crate Train Your Dog
Crate training is a great solution for your dog if they ignore you when you have guests. The crate will give them a safe place and keep the dog and your visitors calm and comfortable.
By allowing your dog to go to a safe place like a crate, you are not forcing them to interact with visitors. It is important to be an advocate for your dog and not force them into situations where they will feel scared and lash out defensively.
Besides not listening or hiding somewhere like under the bed, a dog might show discomfort around visitors by licking their lips, panting, having whale eyes, turning their head, and tucking their tail.
Meanwhile, if your dog does like visitors, you can let them out of the crate once they have adjusted to the excitement of having new people over. The crate allows them to get control of their emotions and come out calm and ready to listen.
Take Your Dog For A Walk Before Visitors Come Over
If over-stimulation and excitement are causing your dog not to listen when you have visitors over, they might need a little more exercise to help bring down their energy level.
Younger and high-energy dogs need a good amount of exercise each day, but even the biggest couch potatoes enjoy a daily walk to keep their joints strong and burn off excess energy. Once physically tired, dogs are more likely to listen and be relaxed when you have guests over.
However, puppies, who often are the worst offenders at ignoring you when you have visitors over, should not be over-exercised. Their joints are still growing and too much repetitive impact can cause injuries. Most puppies go through a teenage phase when they ignore you, especially when something exciting happens like having visitors.
Instead of physical exercise, focus on exercises like redirection and calming protocol for puppies. This will help build the foundation for emotional stability and make it easier for your dog to relax and be able to listen to you in exciting situations like having visitors.
Dogs tend to be creatures of habit and enjoy a normal routine. They are accustomed to your daily schedule and are probably good at listening to you at home and on your daily walk.
This is why it is so frustrating when all of that goes out the window and your dog ignores you when you have visitors.
Your dog might be excited or anxious when you have visitors. They ignore you because they are so overstimulated it is like their brain is turned off and they cannot hear you. Work on training alternate behaviors like going to their bed, their crate, or playing with an enriching toy. A walk before visitors come over might help lower their energy levels.
Some dogs simply do not like having visitors over. You should never force these dogs to interact with visitors if it makes them uncomfortable. It is okay if they stay in their crate when you have visitors as long as they are happy and comfortable in there.
Visitors disrupt the daily order of things and it is exciting and stressful, which is why your dog ignores you. Prepare your dog with daily enrichment, exercise, and calming activities, giving them the mental foundations to not ignore you when you have visitors.