My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Barking at the Doorbell

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Almost every dog comes running when they hear the doorbell/knock at the door, barking nonstop. Managing this behavior is usually made more difficult by our attempts to greet (and/or apologize to) the guest or delivery person while we hold back the barking dog.

To get some control over this situation, you need to practice when no one is actually at the door.

Put your dog on leash.

Practice when all is quiet, your dog is hungry and you have some time.

Use treats your dog considers seriously delicious and that he only gets at these sessions.

Go to the door. Have your dog sit and reward him. If he can manage this, have the dog sit, then open the door a bit. If he stays seated and quiet, reward him. If he gets up or barks, simply close the door, have him sit and repeat. He’ll catch on. Stay calm and realize it will take many repetitions to get right.

The Simple Sit can help a great deal here. Practice this until he is really good at it away from the door, then use that light but steady upward pressure to help create the sit you can then reward. Be sure to give him a little slack and loads of praise/treats when he sits. We want it to be obvious to him what you want in that situation.

Open the door a little more each time while he stays seated and silent, until that is easy for him. Give jackpots (multiple treats) when your dog does especially well. Smile at him, praise him abundantly – let him know just how happy you are with him.

Hint: Repeat success. Often we are tempted, when the dog does well, to immediately move on to a bigger challenge. Resist that temptation; instead, do several repetitions of your success. Enjoy what you have accomplished. It’s a step in the right direction! Avoid – as the old saying goes – achieving success and then rushing headlong toward failure.

Ready for the next step? Then knock on the door. You can knock from the inside on the back of the door; most dogs will react to that like any other knock. If he stays seated (which would be a minor miracle but miracles do sometimes happen) reward him! If not, calmly persist in asking for the sit using light leash pressure until he does, then reward him. Let him calm down for a few seconds before you try again.

If he really has a hard time, knock more softly or use a single knock to get things to a level he can cope with.

When that is going well, knock and open the door a bit. Do that until he can sit, attentive and with slack leash, waiting for his treat.

Keep going – doing a little more once your dog has conquered one level. Next might be to reach around and ring the bell. Then have a friend ring the bell. Practice this a few minutes at a time a few times a week, and soon you’ll have a dog who sits calmly when guests arrive (or, at the very least, is much more controllable).

Other options:

Scattering a small handful of kibble or treats on the floor after every knock so that instead of barking, your dog is eating.

Consider using a Halti head halter. When you take up the slack on those, they shut the dog’s mouth. These are used in a smooth upward motion that closes the mouth. They are never jerked or yanked. Be sure to give slack the moment your dog calms at all. That slack is a big reward and a clear signal to repeat whatever he just did.

by Sarah Wilson, MySmartPuppy.com

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