Are you facing the situation when your dog starts barking at the door or going nuts whenever someone rings the doorbell or knocks on your door?
If this is driving you crazy, I have some solutions for you to stop your dog from behaving in this manner.
There are mainly 2 reasons as to why your dog barks whenever someone knocks at the door or rings the doorbell.
Your dog starts to stress out and feel that he had a duty to protect your family from the person behind the door.
Your dog is feeling excited that there is someone at the door and wants to alert you through his barking.
You can stop your dog from barking at the door by teaching him the “Quiet” and “Down” Commands, Desensitizing him, applying Positive Reinforcement and assigning him to do some TASK whenever the doorbell rings. Keeping his energy level low will prevent him from being overexcited or anxious.
Positive Reinforcement For Not Barking
To help your dog overcome this barking behavior, you would need to use a positive reinforcement approach to reward him for not responding (barking) whenever he hears any sounds (knocking or bell ringing) coming from the door.
I would recommend that you use treats as a form of reward rather than verbal praise. You see, to make your dog ignore these stimuli, you need to give him something tempting that he considers as of value to him so that he can focus his attention on you and nothing works better than treats.
Of course, the treats have to be of high value type. Do not use those normal kibbles as that would not be tempting enough to get hold of your dog’s attention.
Go for meat types of treats such as chicken or salmon which are more tasty and your dog will simply cannot resist them.
Start by recreating the event to train your dog not to react to the sounds coming from the door.
This is what you would do:
1. Bring your dog near the door.
2. Knock on the door and as soon as your dog starts to react and barks, use the marker word “No-No” and give him the high value treat from your hand.
3. You would want him to pay his attention to you as you give him the treat to show him that you are taking care of the situation, and he would not need to react.
It’s important that you remain very calm during the training as your dog will take the clue from your expression and body language.
4. Keep practicing this with your dog (knocking the door and ringing the doorbell) till you find him gets really comfortable and remains calm.
5. If your dog is still feeling uneasy and continues with the barking, you may want to move him a bit further from the door so that the sound is not that loud and continue with your training. For this case, you would need a partner to help you out with the door knocking.
The idea is to get your dog to disassociate the door ringing or knocking as something that he needs to get fearful or excited about.
And by rewarding him for being calm, you are reinforcing his calm behavior with a positive experience and show him that you are taking care of the situation.
Desensitize Your Dog
If your dog starts going crazy and keeps barking at the door upon hearing the doorbell ringing or door knocking, he may have associated the sounds with something BAD!
What you would need to do is to desensitize him from this doorbell fear and associate it to be a fun and rewarding experience.
This is how you can do it:
(Introduce the sound of the doorbell to your dog gently)
1. The best time to do this will be his mealtime. This is probably the time when he is less likely to be stressed out as his attention will be on his food.
2. Record the sound of your doorbell to your phone and play the sound every time you feed him with his food. This will help him associate the sounds of the doorbell with a rewarding experience, that is, he will be getting a treat from you.
3. For a start, keep the volume of the ringing tone low to avoid causing any stress or anxiety to him.
4. As you find your dog is adapting well to the doorbell ringing without any barking, you can slowly increase the volume to the level that matches what he is likely going to perceive when he is at the door.
5. Keep practicing this with him and as your dog gets comfortable with the training, you can slowly replace the treats with verbal praise (as a form of reward).
6. You should also replace the doorbell sounds with door knocking sounds (record the sounds on your phone) and do the exact same training to make your dog get used to these sounds and react calmly.
Give Him A Task To Do When Doorbell Rings
This approach is to redirect his attention. Assign him a task that he needs to do whenever the doorbell rings. This will make him busy and keep his focus and attention away from the door sounds and avoid barking.
This is what you can do:
1. Decide on the task that you want your dog to do whenever the doorbell rings. For me, I would want my dog to go to his dog couch and stay there till I give him the “release” command (which is the command that I used to let him know that he can make a move).
2. To accomplish this, I will have to train him that upon hearing the doorbell ringing, he will have to go to his favorite dog couch and calmly sit there and GOOD things will happen.
3. To carry out this training, I will record the doorbell ringing sound on my phone and play from there. Then I will guide my dog to his couch (use a treat to lure him) and make him sit on it.
The moment he does it, I will reward him with a high value treat. I will keep rewarding him and make him stay there for about 1 minute before I give him the “release” command.
When he is used to this training, I will increase the duration that he will stay on his couch and make sure that he only leaves the couch upon hearing my “release” command.
4. This is to make him associate the “doorbell ringing” with his task of going to his couch and remain sitting there till I give him the “release” command.
Of course, you will have to make him feel that it’s going to be more rewarding doing this task than to bark at the door and nothing is more enticing than giving him high value treats for doing that.
5. Keep doing this training so that it becomes natural for your dog to go to your designated spot and stay there whenever the doorbell rings or door knocking.
Remember to go to the designated spot to reward your dog after you are done with your visitor and free him from the couch.
Keep Your Dog Barking Under Control
This can be done by training him on the “down” command. Dogs would not bark when they are in the down position and tend to exhibit calmness while in this position.
To begin with this training, do it first without any distraction:
1. Lure your dog to go into a “sit” position by placing a high value treat near to his nose.
2. Then slowly move the treat straight down to his front paws.This will make your dog go from “sit” to “down” position.
3. When he is in the down position, give him the “down” command, press the clicker and give him the treat. The clicker is used to associate his action (being in “down” position) with getting a treat from you.
4. Keep practicing this and whenever your dog remains in a down position, reward him with a treat. The goal is to make him associate this position with getting a reward.
5. When your dog is progressing well, increase the challenge by making him perform “down” action while stimulating the door ringing.
Your dog is likely going to react a bit of unease and (maybe) start his barking. Give him the “down” command and if he follows your instruction, press the clicker and give him the treats.
If he doesn’t, place the treat near to his nose and guide him to sit, followed by down position.
6. Your dog might need more time to learn how to react appropriately when facing the stimuli.
The key point is to make him associate that to be in a down position is certainly more rewarding that barking at the door when the doorbell rings.
7. Remember to include the door knocking stimuli in the training as well.
Teach Him The “Quiet” Command
What will you do when your kid is throwing his temper, you will tell him out front “Stop It!”.
This training approach can be applied to your dog as well but rather than using a harsh tone, you would want your dog to associate the command “Quiet” for him to stop his barking and in return, he will be rewarded.
First, pick a word that you can associate for your dog to stop his barking. You can use whatever word that you feel comfortable with such as “hush” or “enough”. For me, I prefer to use the word “Quiet”.
When your dog starts barking at the door, take a high value treat right in front of his nose. This will stop his barking as he can’t bark and smell at the same time. Then wait for 2 seconds before you say the “Quiet” command and give him the treat.
That would positively reinforce his calm behavior with a rewarding experience.
It’s likely that your dog will react well to this training as he will consider getting his treats to be of much more valuable than his barking!
Excessive Energy Leads To Excitement
When your dog is on a high energy level, any stimuli that is happening around him is going to make him excited and act in an undesirable way.
This is what happens when he hears a doorbell ringing and starts barking as he eagerly wants to find out what is over the other side of the door.
What you can do is to make sure that your dog is engaged in some exercise daily (such as playing Flirt pole or Frisbee) to help him release some excess energy in his body.
As the saying goes “A tired dog is a GOOD dog”, a less energetic dog is certainly going to be a well-behaved dog in the house!