The doorbell rings and the dreaded barking ensue. Your dog barks, jumps at the door, creating such a scene that you dread even opening the door. In the dog’s mind, the doorbell is synonymous with, “A stranger is at the door,”-go crazy!
The behavior usually starts off innocently enough. At some point, your little puppy becomes an adolescent and notices the furtiveness that usually accompanies when someone comes to the door. It may start with a little barking. Most owners unintentionally reward the behavior by petting and stroking the dog, thinking that they are helping the dog to calm down. In actuality, they are rewarding the dog and basically telling the dog, “You did good, the barking was good.” Before long, the barking has turned into an all out assault on the front door.
The subject of polite greetings at the front door is probably worthy of a dozen blogs. There are many aspects to it: barking crazily once the doorbell rings and continuing once guests enter, jumping on guests as they enter, or even worse….aggression. These training exercises help teach your dog polite greetings at the front door. We recommend that you consult a professional dog trainer for aggression that your dog displays towards guests.
If your dog already barks at the doorbell, your options depend on the dog’s intensity. Many dogs respond well to Pat Miller’s (www.peaceablepaws.com) “positive interrupt”. The idea is not to scare or hurt your dog, but to distract your dog. Reward your dog with treats instantly for quiet behavior, or anything else she does that is not barking. Be sure to reward your dog with delicious treats the instant your dog quiets. Your dog will associate the doorbell with all good things and come to actually enjoy hearing the doorbell ring and respond with a different type of excitement in looking to you for a treat.
Help for the Bad Barkers
For dogs that don’t quiet down easily when the doorbell rings, start with training your dog everyday with your own family members. Ask them to ring the doorbell when they come home and wait for you to answer. They may need to call you a few minutes ahead of their arrival so that you can prepare your dog for training by having delicious treats ready and a training collar and leash on your dog. Once the doorbell rings, follow these steps:
1. Walk your dog calmly to the door. Ignore your dog’s barking. Don’t shout, speak excitedly, or command your dog over and over. Simply walk to the door.
2. At the door, ask your dog to sit. Make sure your dog is sitting out of the way of the door, as well as allowing your guests enough room to walk in. Give your dog a treat for sitting. Don’t worry about giving a treat while your dog is barking.
3. Proceed to open the door, but only if your dog remains sitting. If you dog gets up at any point, stop opening the door and put your dog back into the sit command. The door will only completely open if your dog is in the sit command.
4. Allow family members to enter.
Try to practice this several times a day with the dog’s own pack members-the family. The dog will begin to associate the doorbell with calm behavior-sitting at the front door. Be generous with treats, especially when the dog doesn’t bark. Eventually, your dog will learn this new behavior and you and your dog will be prepared for when the “real” guests arrive!
New Puppy-Don’t Allow the Behavior to Start in the First Place!
The best way to avoid a problem is to not let it start in the first place. Always notice and reward calm behavior with treats. Don’t take this time for granted! In our opinion, you can never give out too many treats when a dog is acting calm and quiet. If the doorbell rings, and your puppy stays quiet, slip her a treat. Keeping your voice soft will help maintain a calm atmosphere. If the sound of the bell always predicts treats, your dog will come to like the sound.
Ultimately, you may need a professional dog trainer to teach a serious barker to react less energetically.