With more home cameras aimed at front doors than ever before, you might not be surprised (or even that excited) when your doorbell rings, but that does not mean your dog will act cool, too. Many dogs bark or get overly eager when a visitor pops by, and some skittish pooches might even bark if someone passes by on the sidewalk.
Dogs are obviously territorial creatures. They view your house as a sacred domain and the door is the entrance to be guarded. When someone approaches, your dog may bark for a few reasons. They may want to let you know that someone is there or they might want to scare off the visitor or just lick them to death!
If you find your dog’s barking loud and obnoxious, do not yell at your dog. They will interpret this as you joining in on scaring the boogeyman at the door away. Here are a few tips on how to fix your dog’s doorbell response instead.
Begin retraining your dog’s doorbell response by getting a friend or family member to step outside and ring the doorbell. When your dog barks, do not pay attention to them and let them stop barking on their own. After they remain quiet for a few moments, introduce a verbal cue such as “hush,” “quiet,” or “calm.” Reinforce this cue with a treat.
Remember that you must wait for the dog to be quiet for a few beats before you introduce the verbal cue, and then reward them after the cue. Your dog will want to associate being quiet for the doorbell with both the word you choose and the treat.
As you repeat the training, extend the time between when your dog stops barking and when you say your verbal cue a little each time. After you repeat this numerous times, ring your doorbell, and begin using the verbal cue as your dog is barking. Give them the treat once they have stopped barking.
Another possible way to fix your dog’s doorbell response is to create a diversion. When a visitor approaches the house but before they ring the doorbell, call your dog to you and have them perform some basic obedience training or fetch a nearby toy, ideally one that will keep their attention for a bit. Doing this repeatedly along with rewarding your dog’s silences will improve your dog’s behavior when the doorbell rings.
Desensitization may also help fix your dog’s doorbell response. A good way to get your dog used to the doorbell is for anyone—not only visitors—to ring the doorbell before they enter the house. This will get your dog used to the noise and help corral the subsequent excitement.
One final strategy is to let your dog know that you are the one who answers the door. This counterconditioning training may involve a baby gate or another way to keep your dog away from the door when the doorbell rings.
When someone approaches, keep your dog away from the door and tell them to “sit” and “stay.” Reward them with a treat each time they sit and stay and then go answer the door yourself.
If your dog is overly excited and tends to jump on a new visitor who rings the doorbell, you can teach your dog to respond to “off.” Put a leash on your dog and then have a friend or family member ring the doorbell and enter your home.
As your dog goes to greet the visitor, give the leash a tug so your dog can see you and say “off.” Keep your dog from jumping and, instead, have them sit. At that point, you can reward them with a treat. It will take repetition and patience, as always, to recondition your dog to fix their doorbell response.