Do your dogs bark non-stop with the sound of the doorbell?
Do you have a hard time answering the door when guests or delivery people come by because your dog is incessantly barking and trying to get out the door?
When you do open the door, does your dog lunge at a delivery person or instead, feel freedom and bolt away?
If you’re thinking “yes” to all of this, you’re for sure not alone. AND, you can help your dog become more comfortable with the buzz of the doorbell.
Let’s discuss the why’s for this happening in the first place.
Dogs are smart creatures and learn by making associations from one event to another. So the sequence goes for the doorbell is, the doorbell rings-person walks to the door-opens the door-another person on the other side of the door. Your dog has to determine if this is safe or not.
We can also go one step further out in the beginning. Dogs can differentiate between sounds based on their association to events https://eileenanddogs.com/blog/2019/03/21/dogs-hearing-vs-human-hearing/ So, a sound of a delivery truck can be learned by your dog that a person is going to come up the door-ring the bell-you answer-the door opens-unfamiliar person on the other side. In this situation, your dog can already be amped up with the sound of the delivery truck.
As your dog’s stress level rises with the anticipation of someone being behind the door, that energy must go somewhere. This is where you experience your dog barking, lunging even growling and nipping at guests.
What to do? The first step is making sure you can manage the front door area, so your dog is unable to get close to guests at the front door until your dog is able to greet calmly and quietly.
Setting up an area separating the front door access with baby gates or a tether leash would work.
Next comes the fun! Have you ever played Ding Dong Ditch as a kid?
Never heard of it?
Well, this version is adapted from the childhood game. The dog training version goes like this. Have someone in your family or a neighbor or a friend come by and ring the doorbell. The expectation is your dog will bark. Once your dog is quiet, praise and reward. Repeat several times a day for 5 days! Once your dog is able to bark less frequently and turn towards you and comes to you, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2 is when the doorbell is rung and you approach the door with your dog nearby and answer it, but no one is on the other side. This step is crucial. Why? This step helps your dog learn walking up to the door after the bell rung does not mean making a decision between friend or foe. You’ll be teaching your dog, answering the door will mean only good things for him!
Working incrementally like this helps change your dogs mind when they already have an emotional response (barking and nipping when answering the door when the doorbell rings). Breaking down the sequence of events breaks up the predictability of stranger-danger potential and allows for new experiences to take shape. In addition, also take note how your dog reacts to men versus women, people in uniforms, wearing hats, sunglasses and children of all ages ect. Added steps of getting your dog to accept these nuances with people may be necessary.
Step 3 is bringing it all together. Now, is when the doorbell rings, you answer it and a person is there. Praising and rewarding for when your dog is calm and quiet throughout the steps, will ensure your dog now sees the door opening and someone being there as the best thing in his life. He will want the doorbell to ring and be happy greeting everyone coming by!