If your home is anything like a lot of dog owners, it is a three ring circus when your doorbell rings! Maybe your pup is barking like crazy and running around like her tail is on fire? Or barking for no reason other than simply that's what they have always done? Frustrating, yes! Embarrassing, yes! Not sure what to do about it? Well, we have some tips that just may make you not dread that doorbell so much.
Barking is a way that your dog is trying to communicate something to you. By knowing the reason your pup is barking, you can start to solve the behavior with training.
- Fear - It can be frightening to a dog to hear the sound of a doorbell. It may not be a sound they hear a lot, so new sounds may make them a bit anxious. Also, the unknown of who or what is behind the door may be unsettling to them because they want to protect their people.
- Interruption - The ringing doorbell signals something new is going to happen. Maybe your pup was sleeping and the noise startled them. Or perhaps they were in the middle of something like chewing a bone or playing fetch. Whatever your dog was doing they were interrupted and something new is about to happen.
- Alerting - By barking, your dog is telling you that you need to take action. Dogs are able to associate a certain sound with an action. In their past experiences the doorbell sound was followed up by their owner opening the door, so they are alerting you that someone is possibly trying to access your space.
- Curiosity - More social pups may be barking out of excitement. In the past, when the doorbell rang they may remember a person on the other side who pet or played with them and they are excited for that possibility.
Now that you know some reasonable reasons why your pup may bark at the doorbell, you may be wondering how to actually get your dog to stop barking at the doorbell?
Milne and Mutt Dog, a professional dog trainer, offers some great guidance from their own doorbell training session:
My Training Session
1. I recorded the doorbell on my laptop, so I had control of the volume. I chose to work in the living room, away from the front door.
2. I prepared high-value treats and placed Luna's bed on the floor next to my laptop.
3. I asked Luna to go to her bed and then I played the doorbell recording, at this point the doorbell recording played at the lowest volume. Even on the lowest volume, Luna was visibly unsettled by the noise, her left ear closest to the sound would twitch and she looked towards the door. When working with your dog, you must look for signs that you're dog is uncomfortable because that gives you information that you either need to decrease the volume if possible or have the recording play at that low volume further away from the dog.
4. I spent a good few minutes playing the doorbell recording and immediately feeding Luna a couple of treats, I fed her regardless of her behaviour. I worked on this until I could see that she wasn't reacting to the doorbell sound at that volume level.
5. I then increased the volume, just a little, again looking for any signs of discomfort. We repeated the process of playing the recording and feeding some treats. We worked over the next few minutes at increasing the volume to the maximum level that my laptop would go. I was confident that I was seeing no reaction from Luna other than she was now looking at my hand with the treat expecting the food.
6. At this point I asked Luna to come out of her bed, I then played the recording of the doorbell and immediately asked her to go to her bed using her already learnt to go to bed cue, she was then rewarded for doing so. This step I repeated about 10-15 times.
7. My aim with this training session was to replace Luna's old go to bed cue with the new cue, the sound of the doorbell. After playing the recording then asking Luna to go to bed around 20 times, I then played the recording and waited to see what Luna would do and she did it, she heard the doorbell and went to her bed. This was my jackpot moment, no barking at all just a nice calm dog laying on their bed! Result!!
8. I continued this session for another couple of minutes and then ended it, I wanted to finish the session on a high for both of us. I decided to set myself a challenge and work on this every day for 5 minutes, increasing criteria when appropriate.
If You Are Trying This At Home
1. Don't rush the process, work at a volume level that you're doing is showing no reaction to and if your dog reacts at the lowest level then work on that stage for that session and try increasing the volume in a later session.
2. Always work away from the hot zone, the front door area.
3. If you have a fancy bell where you can change the door chime then you can pick a new doorbell sound and work on creating a new association with that, if you do that use the above steps.
4. Keep your sessions nice and short and try to end on a high for both of you.
5. Try to not allow your dog to practise the behaviour, which can be hard with the doorbell because you don't always know when it is going to ring so my recommendation is that you have treats available to quickly grab if you hear the doorbell, it'll be too late digging them out of your kitchen cupboard, you need to react quickly.
6. Try to have fun with this, it'll make a big difference to you and your dog.
So, fill your treat bag with some tasty treats, make sure your clicker is handy, and get to work...you can do it!