I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but whenever guests enter my home, they are greeted by a cacophony of barking dogs. As we move from the front foyer, through the living room and towards the kitchen they get their first glimpse of the dogs. Of course they’ve been hearing the dogs since walking in the front door, but seeing them is another thing. I can understand how some people might find the experience a bit overwhelming.
Admittedly not all of my dogs are good with strangers, but that’s to be expected since the reason that many of them ended up with me is because they are fearful/reactive or in a few cases, have a bite history.
Usually before any guests arrive, the few dogs who are very stressed by strangers (or may be inclined to try to take a chunk out of someone), are safely tucked away in crates in my bedroom with something yummy to chew on. Everyone is happier that way.
As we approach the kitchen the younger and bigger guys, aka The Kitchen Crew (as my friend “C” calls them them) are at the gate ready to greet our guests.
Entering the kitchen is the first step in running the gauntlet. I’m embarrassed to admit that my bigger dogs tend to jump all over everyone (yes I am one of those dog trainers who has dogs that jump on people, sorry). In my defense, for many years I only had small dogs. With littler dogs people (unintentionally) encourage jumping so that they can reach their tiny heads to pet them, so I never really bothered teaching them not to jump up. I didn’t take size into consideration once I started adopting bigger dogs. Also, my bigger guys really don’t jump up on me, so I figured that would just transfer to other people…I was wrong. So, after apologizing profusely to our guests while we greet The Kitchen Crew, it’s time for the next step in running the gauntlet.
By now the pack of midgets is now usually barking frantically while swirling around the gate in the adjoining family room.
At this point I am usually saying (yelling) “Guys! Seriously! KNOCK it OFF!” which quiets them for maybe several seconds and then they all start barking again. If I have to ask for quiet too many times I may resort to more serious measures and pull out the dreaded water bottle to spray any offenders. Typically just seeing the water bottle is enough to convince most of them to settle down a bit. After years of practice not only do I have great aim, I can shoot from the hip! Once they settle down to a low roar we’re good. I’m not expecting miracles here. After all, visitors are a BIG deal, the dogs are excited, and let’s just face it, barking is just a part of living with dogs.
Once things have settled down a bit we can join the littler guys in the family room. The dogs know to stay back from the gate whenever someone is entering the room. Newer visitors often hesitate to just walk through the gate into the room because they have a few legitimate concerns. They’re worried that some of the dogs may dash through the gate, or that they may step on one of the dogs. At this point the entire pack is typically swarming the gate VERY excited so understandably, wading through all of them can seem a bit daunting.
I go through the gate first and hold it open to show that the dogs will not cross the threshold unless invited to do so. As guests enter the room the swarm moves toward their feet in one fluid motion and more barking ensues. People often freeze at this point and I remind them to keep moving, telling them that the dogs actually know how to avoid getting stepped on, and yes, that includes the blind dogs. See, it turns out I actually have done some training with them after all.
Once everyone finds a place to sit, things settle down considerably. The dogs love getting attention and they commence crawling all over everyone wanted to be petted and fussed over. A few of the shyer dogs stay to the sidelines hoping to go un-noticed in the crowd or maybe blend in with the furniture. It may take several visits, but once the shy guys are comfortable enough with someone they will often join in the fun too.
When a visitor decides to get up and leave the family room, say to go to the bathroom, get something to drink from the kitchen, all hell breaks loose into another session of barking and pack swirling, but they quiet down much more quickly.
If people stay long enough, most of the dogs eventually curl up here and there and settle down to take naps. I often take this opportunity to explain that the calm napping dogs they are now witnessing is typical behavior most days and the crazy chaos is only when people visit. Otherwise I’d be even nuttier than I already am.
When I’m home alone with the dogs they are relatively quiet. Of course they bark now and then throughout the day, during exciting events like when they are being let outside, or at feeding time, or when the mail comes, or when they see a squirrel, or a leaf blowing in the wind, or one of the donkeys next door starts braying… but hey, they’re dogs and that just kind of goes with the territory around here.
Overall I think they’re really a good crew.