I can see why you dread having visitors to your home. When the bell rings the barking starts and doesn’t seem to stop for ages. What’s the problem? Does your take hate visitors? Is she protecting her house and everyone in it? Has she been doing it so often it’s become a “stimulus/response” reaction?
The trick to keeping your dog calm when the doorbell rings is to desensitize him or her to the sound. That means getting to the point where she doesn’t even pay attention, and it’s easier to do than you might think. All you need is a handful of treats and someone to ring the bell!
Why do dogs go crazy when the doorbell rings?
- Your dog has learned the sound of a doorbell ringing means visitors, so he’s letting you know in the only way he knows how
- Your dog is protecting his home and his people, and is alerting the “intruder” there is a guard on duty
- It’s possible your dog is startled by loud noises
- If you have an anxious dog, strangers at the dog can be anxiety inducing
- A visitor may equal play time, so of course your dog is excited about that
- Barking for attention – if this is the cause, ignoring her may be all you need to do. Don’t forget to reward her when she finally quietens down.
How to NOT stop your dog barking at the doorbell
The one thing that is guaranteed to NOT work is you yelling at her. It’s a natural response when the barking is driving you nuts, but it never works. Not only is it just noise to her, but it will cause stress, increase her excitement level and even create a negative association with the doorbell that will make this behavior issue even worse.
Getting started with your dog bark prevention training
The great thing about this training is, you can start it as soon as you finish this article! Spend about 5 minutes per session, and try it a few times a day.
- Every member of your household must be on board with the training plan so you are consistent, which is key to success
- You want a good supply of treats he loves on hand and easily accessible
- Put your dog on a leash so you can easily move him away from the door
- Time set aside dedicated to just this training
- Ask a family member, friend or neighbor to help
- Patience, perseverance and consistency
NOTE: As with all dog training, the key to success is consistency and that is something many dog parents struggle with. The techniques are easy, but putting them into practice every single time can be a challenge. If you have other people living in your household, it becomes even more challenging getting everyone to follow the plan.
Something that usually helps is having a family meeting. It’s the chance to explain to everyone why training is so important, what you’re trying to accomplish and the steps you need to make it happen.
How to stop your dog barking at the doorbell…when you’re caught off guard
Step One: Grab a handful of treats. This is to create a positive association between the doorbell ringing and the delicious treat she gets when it happens
Step Two: Sit a few feet from the door with your dog
Step Three: Enlist the help of someone you know for this exercise and communicate via text when you’re ready for them to ring the bell
Step Four: When your dog barks get your dog’s attention by holding a treat near her nose to distract her. When she’s paying attention to you ask her to sit, look at you and give her the treat. When she looks towards the door again and you know she’s going to start barking, get her attention back on you again by enticing her with that treat
NOTE: Don’t worry, you’re not rewarding the barking, you’re rewarding her for giving you her attention and for sitting. That’s two things she had to do to get the treat
If your dog is so exciting by the sound of the bell and you’re not able to get his attention, it’s possible you’re too close to the door. The further you are from the distraction, the better the chance you’ll have of communicating with your dog
Step Five: Holding onto the leash, walk your dog further away from the door, enticing him with a treat to do it if you have to. Let her see that treat, ask her to sit, look at you then reward her with the food. Any time she starts walking towards the door to bark, distract her as you did in step four.
The point of this exercise is to teach your dog good things happen when the doorbell rings – good things meaning delicious treats. Practice this enough times and your dog should become less reactive to the bell over time.
Good, but not good enough!
It’s great you’ve managed to calm your dog down when someone unexpectedly comes to your door, but you can’t spend your life reacting to every ring or knock. Here’s what you can do for long term success.
Step One: With a treat ready in your hand, text your “guest” and give them the go ahead to knock one. Before your dog even has a chance to bark distract her with a treat, make sure she pays attention to you then reward her. I’m not going to lie, she’s probably going to keep barking again, and you may not be able to distract her.
Step Two: That’s okay, you may need to move further away from the door as you did in Step Five above. Carry on trying to distract her with the treat, looking at you and rewarding her.
Have you done all this several times and your dog is barking as much as ever? Let’s try this!
Step One: Stand with your dog close to the door
Step Two: Have your “guest” go back outside, but ring the bell with the door open this time
Step Three: Give your dog a treat when she’s quiet, which is likely to happen because she can see the person he knows at the door
Step Four: Close the door a little bit, then have her ring the bell. If your dog is quiet give her a treat, if not try distracting her, having her sit, look at you then reward her as we did above. Move further away from the door if you feel she’s going to react
Step Five: Now see what happens when she rings the bell with the door closed. By this point your dog should be able to be looking at the door and not responding. Be sure to give her treats to reinforce that good behavior.
Another option if your dog goes crazy when the doorbell rings
Make a recording of your doorbell ringing, then very quietly play it for your dog. You want the volume at such a low level she can barely hear it. If she ignores it give her a treat. Next time raise the volume slightly, and if she ignores it again give her a treat. See where I’m going with this? Each time you practice you want to raise the volume just a little, and reward her when she doesn’t react.
The goal is to be able to ring the bell and not have your dog pay attention, that’s why you need to raise the volume only a drop each time. If he reacts stop immediately, and the next time lower the volume to the level where he was still comfortable.
Progressing too quickly won’t make your dog learn faster, but can set your training back.
Only do this training when you’re sure no one will be ringing your actual doorbell.
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