Though my dog is not aggressive, he gets so amped up when we have visitors that he starts nipping at their ankles. What should I do?
Greeting visitors can often be an adventure that is full of energy and emotion for both you and your dog. One way of making the situation less charged is to teach your dog a “place” cue. Begin by developing a good, solid, sit or down stay. Once this is accomplished we can then take the next step.
Set the stage by inviting a friend to come over and assist you. Have your guest ring the doorbell (or knock on the door). On the ring, you instruct your dog to go to a predetermined place, and stay there. The designated place can be a bed in another room, but one a few feet from the door may be easier to control in the beginning. Should the dog leave the place, instruct your dog to return, and you may even need to send the guest back outside. Once the guest is inside, you can allow the guest to go to the dog (provided he remains in his place) and praise him and present a tasty treat.
Then, reset the stage and try it again. Before long the dog will recognize the doorbell as the cue to go to his place. Through practice the dog will know to wait in his place until released.
Often times nipping can be the sign of a more serious problem than just an impulse control issue. If the nipping problem doesn’t cease, you should seek the consult of a certified dog professional. Biting, regardless how minor it may seem can lead to more serious situations.