Helping Your Dog Become Less Territorial of Your Home

Dogs, like humans, are territorial by nature. If a stranger came into your home unannounced you would likely react in either a fearful or aggressive manner. Dogs who are aggressive and protective are no different. Fortunately, there are training techniques that can be employed to help your pet grow more comfortable when you have company at your home. Whether you have an older dog who behaves aggressively toward visitors or you are raising a puppy that you want to train to be comfortable around strangers, here are some tips that can help.

Know your dog

Before you start training you need to understand exactly what makes your dog uncomfortable. With some dogs it may be a certain type of person (like a mail carrier or the oil delivery driver). With other dogs any stranger who comes in or near the home is a trigger. Determine the fine line between your dog’s comfort zone and where your dog becomes scared.

Employing a training partner

Start small by having a friend (someone your dog doesn’t know) walk past your home where the dog can see. The moment they show signs of fear, assure your dog that you have the situation under control. Scolding the dog, grabbing them, or otherwise exhibiting aggressive behavior toward your dog will only exacerbate their fears. You want them to know that you have the situation in control. Saying firmly and calmly, “I got it; I’m OK” will tell your dog that you see the stranger and you’re in control.

Oftentimes, dogs bark at strangers because they want us to be aware of the potential danger. Acknowledging your dog is vital in these situations. If your dog is the type who barks or growls at strangers, reward them with treats when they don’t bark as the “stranger” passes by your home.

From there, you can try other triggers with strangers outside the house such as ringing the doorbell or walking through the yard.

Let the stranger inside

After a few sessions working with the stranger outside your home, it’s time to introduce your dog to strangers inside their territory. If you think your dog will be aggressive toward the stranger, make sure you keep your dog leashed or basket-muzzled during the first visit. It will protect your training buddy and will help let your dog know you are in control.

Start by having a family member let the stranger in the home while you hold your dog leashed at length. If your dog barks at the stranger, attempt to get your dog’s attention and verbally reassure them you are okay; you are in control. Have your training partner avoid eye contact with your dog.

Once your dog calms down enough to stop barking, try having them follow commands for treats (sit, stay, etc.). If this is successful, have the stranger try tossing treats to the dog as well. If your dog is too nervous to eat, reward them with pets and other positive reinforcement (“Good girl!”).

Tips for productive training sessions

  • Try to keep your dog’s focus on you as often as you can. Use treats and positive reinforcement constantly
  • Exercise your dog before training if they are high-energy
  • Train in small increments; if your dog is afraid of strangers don’t start by introducing him/her to a party at your home
  • You need to be calm at all times while training. Your dog takes his/her cues from your behavior. If you get frustrated or anxious take a break and start again when you’re fully calm



Stay Safe at Home

Practice home safety as a family and you could prevent home invasions, serious accidents and the need for costly home repairs. Home safety habits also help your family to know how to respond should emergencies occur. Organizations like the American Red Cross encourage Americans to practice home safety. They also encourage adults to teach teens and children what to do in the event of an emergency.

Home safety lessons

Knowing who to contact is only the start when it comes to practicing home safety. Yet, this beginning step is one of the most important. Regardless of where you live, 911 should be the first number to call during an actual emergency.

But, 911 isn’t the only number your children need to know. Teach your children, including young children, their grandparents, aunts and uncles telephone numbers. Also, teach them your work and cell phone numbers. Your children should know at least three of these telephone numbers by heart. Write important telephone numbers down for children to keep in their address books and book bags.

Familiarize yourself with how to respond to a fire, tornado, floor and earthquake. For example, you stay near the floor in the case of a fire. Also, gently touch doors and door knobs before exiting rooms. Seek higher ground during a flood.

Stay away from windows during earthquakes and tornadoes. Depending on where you live, teach children how to respond to hurricanes and dust storms. These are minimal emergency response steps. Makes sure that you know how to respond to emergency situations from A to Z.

Responding to non-weather related home emergencies

Install and test smoke alarms. Replace batteries in alarms. Don’t assume that house alarm systems are functioning. Check them. Also, test your home for asbestos, mold and carbon monoxide. Let these three spread and your home could become unsafe for everyone who enters it.

To practice home safety, keep a ladder in the basement, make sure that windows open and close throughout your house, including basement and attic windows. Place flashlights in easily accessible storage areas like kitchen drawers, bedroom nightstands and bathroom cabinets.

Other items to keep on hand include non-perishable food and bottles of water. Also, keep blankets, an extra pair of clothes for each family member and coats, gloves and hats in a safe area. In addition to keeping these items at home, you should also have similar items in at least one of your vehicles.

Teach children not to open the door to strangers, including utility workers. Also, teach children not to play with electrical outlets and household chemicals. Consider installing home security systems. If you have young children or elderly relatives living with you, security systems that allow you to visually check on your home could be a plus.

Mapping out home safety plans forces you to think about the layout of your house, nearby exits and how long it will take your entire family to escape an emergency situation. It also motivates you to educate yourself on how to respond to different types of emergencies. Run regular emergency response and evacuation drills at home and you could have the confidence that your children will know how to respond should an emergency occur while you’re away. Most of all,developing and practicing home safety habits could keep your entire family safe.

Give Your Adult Children Wings to Soar from Home

Youth long for independence. They want to feel as if they have ultimate freedom to spread their wings and soar. Like everyone else, youth also want comfort, consistency and security. Give them too much of the latter and they might not allow themselves to become independent enough to ever spread their wings and leave home.

How your home could be sending your adult children mixed messages

Face it. A finished basement that has seen enough interior design skill to make it feel like a luxury apartment is hard to walk away from, especially when there’s no rent required to live in the space. This is just one way that you could be making it hard for your adult children to leave home.

Allowing your adult children to set their own house rules is another way that you might be making it easier to stay at home. Cleaning up after your adult children,doing their laundry and washing their dirty dishes can also motivate your children to stay at home, even after they have graduated from college.

These additional ways that you might be using your house to keep your adult children put could provide you emotional support that you might benefit more from getting from friends. For example, extended at home comforts can come thru:

  • Designing rooms that adult children live or sleep in so that the space feels like a separate dwelling area
  • Adding one or more rooms onto your house solely so that adult children can occupy these rooms
  • Babysitting grandchildren for free absent prior notice, even if you had other plans
  • Including adult children on your cell phone service and not asking your children to pay any portion of the bill
  • Buying adult children groceries and clothes
  • Never making any interior or exterior design decisions without thinking of how it will impact your adult children lives on adaily basis (not as if they are merely visiting)
  • Doing chores around the house instead of asking your adult children to take on more household maintenance responsibilities

There’s so much to gain when adult children gain confidence to leave home

If you find it hard to stop supporting your adult children financially, part of the reason why you’re making your home increasingly comfortable for your adult children may be because you want to avoid seeing your children as adults. You might feel unprepared to live at home without your children. You may have tied your identity into being the parent of children who still live at home.

This is understandable. You spent years raising and caring for your children, teaching them academic basics and teaching them about the world. But, now it’s time to let go. What you do with and inside your home could propel or encourage your adult children to embark on their own. It’s this choice that can help your adult children to become confident in their own abilities so that they can live rich, rewarding lives, the same as you did when you were near their age and left your parents’ nest.