How to stop your dog from barking at the doorbell

how to stop your dog from barking at the doorbellFrom family and friends to postal workers and trick-or-treaters, the door can be full of surprises for our dogs.

When someone knocks on your door or rings the doorbell, it’s not unusual for dogs to react with wonder and excitement at a new visitor, but equally they may react with fear and trepidation as to who the visitor is and what their intentions are. However, no matter the motivation, over time your dog’s reaction to the doorbell can become a bit of an annoyance. Let’s look at some simple tactics and strategies you can utilise to train your dog to react differently.

During puberty, many dogs learn to bark if there is anyone near their house, and particularly if they hear a knock at the door. This is totally normal and part of a dog’s make-up and development. If the dog knows the person on the other side of the door he may stop, sniff and put his head on one side. If he doesn’t know them he will often become increasingly excited. A dog in a high state of exhilaration can be unpredictable. They may just greet the person with a huge tail and body wag, or they may start jumping up and grabbing at clothes because they feel they have lost control of the situation. Equally, the visitor may not like dogs, or may be frightened of them too. Just opening the front door to an overly excited dog could cause that person to run down the drive – and your dog to chase after them!

If your dog is only mildly excited at the front door, we can use a simple, ‘sit’ command to calm them down before opening the door. You can practice this with a friend, only opening the door once your dog has sat and waited, then gently praise them for doing so. If your dog fails and jumps up then you shut the door, thus over time the door opening becomes a reward for sitting.

Other dogs may need to be taught to go outside or into another room for a few minutes whilst we get our visitor in and settled. This can easily be achieved by throwing a favourite toy or treat into the other room and closing the door or baby gate behind them. With time your dog will learn quickly that the doorbell usually means they bark then go into the kitchen and wait to be let out. When we do let the dog through, they are often calmer as they have had a few minutes to settle down before they are let in to greet your guest.

Teaching your dog to be calm when visitors arrive is no easy feat. It may take a few attempts for you and your dog to get things right, but it’s worth persevering if you don’t want your dog going mad whenever a chance caller knocks on the door.

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About the author

Dr Shahad Mohammed
Veterinary Physiotherapist
National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists