We know they mean well, but few things are more grating for dog owners — or more disconcerting for dog owners' visitors — than a dog barking at the door every time someone knocks or rings. Award-winning dog trainer Ben Randall explains how to stop it from happening.
We’ve all witnessed it. Sometimes a delivery driver only has to open the gate and start walking up your drive for the dogs inside the house to start going crazy and jumping up and down on the windowsill or barking and leaping at the door. And if someone knocks on your door or rings the bell, all hell breaks loose…
This week’s piece, though, looks instead at nipping a negative behaviour in the bud: how to stop your dog barking at the door, a topic suggested by L.A. from Warwickshire:
‘Whenever anyone knocks on my front door, whether it’s the postman or a friend, my dog goes mental, jumping up and down and barking,’ writes LA. ‘He’s always friendly and half licks visitors to death, but they don’t all like dogs and I’d prefer it if he didn’t make such a fuss every time someone comes to the door.’
I personally believe that your dog barking at someone entering the house, and continuing to do so if it’s been told to stop, is a dog that’s stressed and feels like it has to be in charge of the relationship between it and its owner. They go into protect mode and think: ‘You’re mine, the house is mine, the garden’s mine.’
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It’s something that I’ve worked on many times in my career as an award-winning dog trainer — and you can see more about me and my work at @beggarbush, or you can email your own query to email@example.com.
I prefer a dog that maybe barks once at a knock on the door, then sees me, relaxes and walks away back to its bed, because it trusts me and our partnership and knows that there’s no threat, as I am in control of the situation. But how do you reach that state? Here’s how to stop your dog going berserk when visitors approach or enter your house.
Five steps to stop your dog barking at the door
1. Treat the door (or your visitors) like any other distraction
To me, the front door (or anyone entering your home) is classed as a distraction, so the ‘leave’ command is a must in this situation. It is therefore imperative that your dog understands and acts on that command before you begin these steps.
2. Encourage your dog to go to its bed when people arrive
I also like to teach the word ‘in’, with a hand direction, so the dog knows it needs to go ‘in’ to its bed, ‘in’ to its crate, ‘in’ to the car or ‘in’ to another room. To achieve this, point at the area where you want your dog to go, say their name and then ‘in’, multiple times. When they do as they are told, reward them with kibble or praise.
Once they’re always happy to do this when you say ‘in’, you will have successfully established both the ‘leave’ and the ‘in’ commands. Although, always make sure that the dog is calm and patient when you ask him or her to do this.
3. Enlist help from friends or family
Try to get a family member to simulate knocking on the door to help with the training process. Ask them to stand outside and knock on the door while you remain inside so you can see how your dog reacts. If the dog barks or rushes at the door, give the ‘leave’ command, swiftly followed by ‘in’, then walk to the door, open then close it, and walk back to your dog, always making sure to calmly praise the dog or reward it with some kibble every time it gets it right.
Ask your family member to do this again and again, so that you can practice the commands and the reward multiple times. If you can’t find a family member to assist, ask a neighbour — you’ll be amazed at how willing they are to help you stop your dog barking!
Alternatively, you can buy remote door bells that you can keep in your pocket and ring yourself to set up a believable scenario.
What you’re aiming for is to retrain your dog’s mind so that he’s thinking: ‘As soon as I hear the doorbell ringing or the delivery driver knocking, I’m going to run back to my bed and wait calmly and patiently until mum or dad gives me my reward.’
4. Take it outside
Once you have successfully practised this multiple times inside the house, we need to proof those commands in the garden using the same techniques. When someone comes through the front gate or a delivery driver pulls up in his van, give the ‘leave’ command and point to an area where you want the dog to go, such as the porch.
Ask your dog to sit and wait patiently while you speak to your neighbour or take the package from the driver, then calmly reward the dog with some kibble or give him some praise.
5. Be prepared to keep at it for the long haul
It can be tricky to correct this unruly and ill mannered behaviour, especially if you have an older dog who’s been throwing himself at the door and jumping up on your visitors for years. However, with the right attitude, some patience and commitment you’ll be able to calm your dog down in no time. Keep at the it, make it a non-negotiable habit, and you’ll easily resolve this issue through these simple steps.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk
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