How do I train my dog to stop barking or growling after the doorbell rings or there is a knock at the door?
This month’s blog question: “How do i train my dog to stop barking or growling after the doorbell rings or there is a knock at the door?”
Door greetings are something many dog owners struggle with. They can be frustrating and nerve racking. Most dogs understand that the sound of the doorbell or knocking at the door means a guest has arrived. Dogs will even respond to the sound of the doorbell on a television show. Some dogs alert us because they are excited a new friend has arrived while others alert us to help protect our territory. No matter what your dog’s motive is, the key factor is that they should stop when told. Who wants their first moments with their guest to be stressful? Instead teaching your dog good greeting manners can not only impress your guest but also make for a more pleasurable experience for everyone.
Being prepared and training your dog a few simple commands can go a long way in teaching your dog what type of greetings you desire at the door. If your dog barks because they are excited to see the guests then you should spend a few days teaching the dog that the sound of someone knocking means nothing. Record the sounds of your doorbell and someone knocking at the door. Wait until you have a few days where you are confident no guests will be arriving then play the recordings over and over throughout the day and completely ignore your dog for reacting to the sound. And I mean play them a lot. Anytime you have a chance, ring the bell. Dogs do everything for attention. If they get absolutely no attention for responding to the doorbell then eventually this behavior will go away. That means no response from the family and no one actually coming in the door. This step should only be done for dogs that are barking because they are excited. If you have a dog that barks because they are guarding the house it is not recommended to use this step. The reason for this is because when no one enters after the dog stops barking, they will think they did a great job protecting the house. If you have a protective dog or are unsure of the reason your dog is barking at the door you can instead start by teaching the “quiet” command.
The “quiet” command is taught by pairing the action of the dog being quiet with the word quiet. When the dog barks find a way to distract them and make them quiet. This can be done by clapping your hands, stamping your feet, squeaking a toy, or if your dog responds well to their name you can say their name. When the dog stops barking for a split second due to your distraction then say the word “quiet” click and treat. Remember the big key is to say “quiet” while he is quiet so he can learn the meaning of the word. Repeat training this way for one to two weeks. Then test by saying “quiet” while the dog is barking. If the dog stops barking tell him that is correct by clicking and treating. If he does not stop barking continue to pair the action of being quiet with the word for a few more days before testing again.
The next step is to teach the dog to sit in a certain location when someone comes to the door. Find a spot in your home where you would like the dog to stay when guests arrive. This should be in view of the door so that you can reward the dog for staying but at least 3 feet away. If your dog does not have a strong “stay” command then you can place a tie down in the area. This can be done by placing an eyehook in the wall and attaching a leash to it. Once your dog learns what to do during greetings you can remove the eyehook.
If you choose not to use a tie down you should practice obtaining a strong “stay” prior to working with the distraction of the door. This is done by first building up the length of time your dog is going to remain in the stay. Since you will be using it to answer a door you may want this to be up to five to ten minutes. Remember to work slowly and set your dog up for success, increasing the length of time he stays in the stay 5 seconds at a time. If he fails you are moving too quickly. Once your dog will remain in a stay position for a good length of time try to start walking away from the dog. At this point you are only focusing on moving away not how long he remains in the stay. Once you can walk away from the dog without him breaking his stay start rebuilding the length of time he remains in the position. At this point you can now start working with the door.
Practice! Practice! Practice!:
Encourage your dog to sit in their greeting place. When they do, click and treat. If you are not using a “tie down” ask for a stay. Take one step towards the door. If they remain sitting click and treat. If not, turn your back for 30 seconds and then try all over again. While the dog is sitting take two steps towards the door. If they remain sitting in their place click and treat. If not turn your back for a few seconds and then remind them to sit and start all over. Repeat this over and over adding another step each time they succeed until you can get to the door. Now try opening the door. If they remain in their place click and treat. If not close the door and turn your back again and start over. Once your dog will remain sitting in their place while you open the door you will then need to add the doorbell.
Ask the dog to sit in their place. As the dog is about to sit down play the recorded sound of your doorbell. If they don’t sit body block the dog to prevent them from going to the door. Once they stop trying to go around you, ask them to sit, click and treat. If the dog is barking use their quiet command. Release them from their place and do this over again; ask the dog to sit in their place and play the recording as they are about to sit. If the dog sits, click and treat them. If they try to run for the door body block them and ask for quiet. Then when they give in ask them to sit in their place again. You want to repeat this exercise until the dog will sit in their place even when they hear the doorbell. If you are timing the sound of the doorbell with them getting into their location at some point they will just sit in their spot at the sound of the doorbell. This may take several training sessions to accomplish but when you succeed you will then need to start trying to walk to the door again. Ask the dog to stay or tie them up and then take one step towards the door. If they stay sitting, click and treat. Now try two steps and so on until you can open up the door and the dog is still sitting in their place.
Realize when you are practicing there will not be another person on the side of the door. The first time this happens your dog will most likely fail since it will be a new added distraction. Just be patient, body-block them, and put them back in their place. Realize humans have a huge influence on your dog’s behavior. You should ask your guest to ignore the dog for several minutes when they enter the home. This will prevent the dog from becoming over excited. If the dog begins to get excited when the guest tries to provide attention the guest should go back to ignoring the dog. With practice your dog will have perfect greetings.