Now that we have three dogs, the race to the door when someone knocks (we deactivated the doorbell) is on! We’ve followed several dog training tips to help keep your dog from barking at the doorbell with great success. We get to start from scratch with the training now that we have a puppy in the house again. Mikkel Becker’s tips will help.
By Mikkel Becker, Vetstreet.com
Dogs erupt in a frenzy of barking whenever the doorbell rings or there’s knocking at the door. It’s not even unusual for dogs to hear knocking or the doorbell on TV and to still be set off in a barking fit.
Why dogs bark at the doorbell…
There are various reasons why dogs bark at the doorbell or knocking at the door. It’s not the sound in and of itself that starts the reaction of barking, but it’s what happens after that causes the dog’s barking. Often dogs bark as soon as the doorbell rings or there’s knocking at the door and owners soon after open the door, which actually teaches the dog that whenever they bark, the door magically opens. Adding to the commotion is when owners yell at their dogs for barking, which simply gets the dogs even more excited and wound up, and more barking ensues.
There are also dogs that will bark at the doorbell because they are fearful of the person on the other side. For these dogs, it’s essential to change their emotion to people coming into the home and to help build their confidence, which should be aided by the combination of your veterinarian and a certified professional dog trainer.
In order to stop barking at the doorbell or knocking at the door, you need to teach your dog an alternative behavior to do in its place. One of the best things to do is teach your dog to lay down on a mat whenever the doorbell rings or there is knocking at the door.
Teach your dog to lay down on a mat or dog bed…
To begin, first teach your dog to lay down on a mat or dog bed on cue. Start by placing the mat on the floor and rewarding your pet for investigating the bedding. You can toss treats on the mat to pique their interest. Reward for any movement towards the mat by tossing treats in the middle of the bed. As soon as all four paws are on the mat, encourage them to lay down by asking for a “down,” or simply waiting for it to happen as you continue to treat them simply for staying still on the mat. Once your dog lays down, continue to reward them randomly for laying stationary on their mat. Next, reset your dog from the mat by tossing a treat off the mat and then rewarding again for your dog getting on the mat. You can ask your dog to lay down again when they re-station on the mat or simply wait for it to happen.
Once your dog is readily going onto the mat and laying down, add a cue to the behavior, such as “mat.” Say “mat” just as the dog is starting to walk towards the mat. Once your dog readily goes to his mat on cue, it’s time to teach them to do this with the doorbell or the knocking.
Practicing the “mat” cue with your dog…
Start off with either knocking or ringing the doorbell. If knocking, start with a soft knock, which is less likely to initiate barking, and can be done behind your back as you stand next to the door. Quietly knock, then wait two seconds before you say your word “mat” and reward your dog for going and laying down on their mat by the door. Repeatedly do this process with a small 2-4 second delay between the knocking and asking the dog to go to their mat. Reward any anticipation of the knocking and going to their mat. Eventually you want your dog anticipating that you always ask them to go to their mat after the door knocks so that they begin to run and lay on their mat at the sound of knocking. Once your dog starts responding simply with the knock, take out the “mat” word all together.
Gradually you can practice with louder knocking. Then practice with someone familiar outside, such as a member of the family. Have them knock and ask your dog to go to their mat. Practice repeatedly without the person coming in.
Train your dog to stay on their mat or bed…
In a separate session, train your dog to stay on their mat in a down while the door opens. Do this by having your dog on leash and without anyone outside of the door, open the door a crack and treat your dog for staying in place on the mat. If they stand up, shut the door and try again by opening the door less of the way the next time. Over time, you will want the door to be fully opened without your dog getting off of their mat. Practice having family members stand outside of the door as well and your dog staying in place.
Now, combine the training…
Next, you want to combine the training so that there is someone familiar outside of your door knocking and your dog will run to their mat. Then practice them staying on their mat while the door opens and the person steps inside. Then they can be given their release word, such as “okay,” which lets them know it’s okay to stand up and greet.
Practice with the same steps next to train your dog to lay down on their mat when they hear the doorbell, which will prepare your dog to lay on their mat regardless of whether a person knocks or rings when they come to your home.
The polished behavior should be a dog that goes and lays on his mat when the doorbell rings or someone knocks, and they stay on the mat while the door opens and a person comes inside until they are given a release word to go greet.
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