Dogs Trust which has a rehoming centre in Shoreham, is urging dog owners to prepare their pets ahead of mixing with others indoors.
Since the first lockdown, in March last year, dog owners have spent an increased and concentrated amoung of time with their dogs at home on their own.
The charity has warned pets will have become accustomed to interacting with a much smaller number of people during, meaning they could become anxious or excited if more people start showing up inside their home.
Dr Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at Dogs Trust, said: “Over the last year, many of us will have adapted to living in lockdown. Life for our dogs will also have been different, with few visitors coming into the house, but perhaps more delivery drivers coming to the door and leaving again.
“It is important for us to make sure they are prepared for more social interactions at home, staying calm when people come to the door and seeing new people come inside.
“This will be especially true for dogs who have been acquired as puppies during lockdown and may have had limited contact with visitors during that time.”
Dogs Trust has put together some training tips for dog owners to make the transition of welcoming guests easier – owners are advised to put a sign on their door asking people not to knock or ring the doorbell so training is not interrupted.
A video with the tips can be viewed online at www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/training/visitor-training
Among them are methods for helping dogs to learn not to react to knocks at the door or the doorbell ringing – first by knocking on hard surfaces and using a mobile phone to recreate the sound of a doorbell.
The next step involves getting someone to and approach the front door to knock or ring the bell while the owner remains inside with their dog, with the pet rewarded with a treat if they remain calm, and then extending this to train the dog to run to their bed when there is someone at the door.
The following stage is trying witha real visitor. A Dogs Trust spokesman said: “It’s a good idea to have a long-lasting tasty treat ready prepared in your fridge in case you are surprised by unplanned visitors. Preparation and practice make perfect.
“One of the most common reasons for dogs coming into Dogs Trust’s care is behaviour-related issues, which is why the charity wants to help ‘change the tale’ for as many dogs as possible, so they remain in happy homes.
“As well as providing training videos and advice, Dogs Trust’s Dog School has been able to continue running training classes online while face-to-face classes have been paused during lockdown, meaning dogs and their owners can still learn through virtual classes to equip themselves with skills they can put into practice as normality returns.”
For more information and online training videos, see www.dogstrust.org.uk/changethetale/advice