This is a familiar and frequent challenge for the more sociable dog guardians among us, or those of us who can’t stop ordering stuff online and know the UPS drivers by name.
Does your dog launch into a bark-a-thon when the doorbell goes?
Is it then a game that spirals as you become stressed out, your dog’s barking increases in intensity and volume and your visitor is left a little shell-shocked as you open the door?
The sound has become directly associated with someone being on the other side of the door. So, you’re probably at a stage where you can ring the doorbell and your dog will bark regardless of whether there is someone there or not? You might have also found that your dog responds to the buzzers on quiz shows because it sounds like the doorbell? We went through a phase of missing half of Question of Sport due to barking!
How would you feel about the sound of the doorbell signalling a different cue to your dog? How would you feel about the sound of the doorbell being a signal for them to go to their bed?
It will take a little bit of time, depending on how often your dog gets to practise their bark-a-thon, but it’s doable. The level of calm it will bring to your life makes it well worth the effort in my humble opinion and you’ll have fun teaching your dog this cue. We mustn’t forget the smug feeling we’ll allow ourselves when our visitors arrive to a calm welcome, finding a relaxed, smiling human and a dog chillaxing on their bed.
So, to start with, if you can, change the tone of your doorbell. Then, ring the bell and show your dog a treat. Lure them to their bed, where they get the treat. If you have a bed somewhere not too far away, where in the future you’d like your dog to relax while you have visitors, that will help you.
You need to practise this over and over again, ensuring that you’re not having any unexpected visitors! A polite note saying ‘please don’t ring the doorbell, we’re training our dog’ works wonders. If it’s regularly ignored then feel free to be less polite!
If you are able to have two doorbells (I know, fancy!) then you can have one with you for training. As you walk past your dog, you can ring the bell and chuck a treat in their bed. At every opportunity, the bell signals that a treat will appear in their bed and that doesn’t require a barking response. I’m willing to bet that most of you have a dog who hears their food packet opening, runs to you and sits down because you’ve conditioned a ‘sit for food’ response? This is the same thing; the sound will elicit a response. The response we’d like is for our dog to go to their bed, where they won’t be jumping all over the visitor.
Remember never to shout at your dog if they’re barking. Mainly because there’s no point, they just think you’re joining in but also because they’re doing a fabulous job of being a dog. If you’d like them to do something different, it’s your job to teach them the response you’d like.
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