'My dog gets very excited when we have guests over and she jumps up and nips them' - this is one of the most common comment I get in my classes.
We probably teach our dogs some of this excitement, by getting exited over their behaviour. If you react to her excitement by shouting at her or trying to pull her away quite forcefully, you are only rewarding her behaviour. She doesn't understand what you are saying, and she is likely to read your tone of voice wrong, thinking that you are getting excited with her and supporting her in her behaviour. If you get angry with her, she might even think you are disappointed in her not being excited enough and so the negative circle is formed, where she gets more and more excited and you get more and more angry.
In situations like this we have to show our dogs what calm and collected leaders we are and brake the bad circle with new reactions to the doorbell. To deal with this kind of problem, I've listed a few exercises below that you can do.
When the doorbell goes, do not immediately rush up to answer it, take your time, get some nice treats for your dog, try very calmly to get her away from the door by offering her the treats.
If she seems interested in the treats (they have to be irresistible to her!) you can throw them out at random over a floor in a room away from where the guests will come in.
It is important that she doesn't get any backup for her excited behaviour by having her pack (you, her family) rush to the door every time she barks or starts revving up. You should be very calm and not make a big fuss over any guests coming through your door.
Ask your guests (maybe you can put a note on the door) to ignore your dog when they come through the door. I know that can be difficult to do when she is jumping up and nipping them, but ask them to do their best.
Once they have walked around in your home for a while (letting your dog collect herself) and they settle down on your sofa, make sure they have a treat in their hand and ask them to tell your dog to sit down in front of them. When your dog sits down, she should get the treat.
These exercises are meant to calm your dog down and to teach her that she will get rewards when she is calm and sitting down, rather than when she is jumping and biting.
Ignoring a dog is one of the harshest thing you can do to them, so by ignoring your dog when they walk though your door, your guests are in affect saying I don't like your behaviour and I will not give you any notice. Once she is displaying a behaviour that they do like (sitting down calmly in front of them), she gets the reward in shape of a treat, toy or verbal praise.
If you decide to give her verbal praise, be careful so that you don't get her all worked up again, with your voice. Keep your voice low and calm when you praise her.
It can also be beneficial to teach your dog more general self control, to show her the benefits of a calm and collected behaviour. If she gets paid repeatedly for sitting and watching you, she'll try the behaviour more often.
You can train this exercise at any time in any place. It doesn't matter if your dog is standing, laying or sitting down while you do this exercise. Hold up a treat close to your head, say "contact" or "look" or another word that you would like to associate to the exercise. As soon as your dog looks at you - praise her with your voice and give her the treat.
The first couple of times you do this exercise you will have to be very quick and reward her for just a glance. As she starts to understand what it is you want her to do - work towards keeping her eye contact for just a bit longer.
Gradually escalate the time that she has to keep eye contact. If you are diligent in your training, your dog should, within 2 weeks, be able to look at you for almost a minute without breaking the eye contact.
This exercise is great to have for moments like: stopping at a road, before you let her out the door, before she is let to her food bowl, before you let her run off after a ball, before she is let of the lead, etc.
As mentioned above, you can do an eye contact exercise before you give your dog her food. In the beginning this will be achieved by holding the bowl behind your back, waiting for your dog to look you in the eye. When she does, even if it is a quick glance, praise her with your voice and put the food down for her. Easy for you to do, but a very difficult task for your dog, if she is keen on her food!
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