How to Desensitize Your Dog to the Doorbell

Does your doorbell trigger a massive barking fit from your dog? Do you have trouble calming them down, so you actually can open the door? Many dog owners know this scene all too well. Lots of dogs get overly excited when someone’s at the door, but there are ways to curb that behavior. Try these seven expert tips to stop your dog from barking at the door.

1. Don’t yell

You might want to yell at your dog to be quiet, but all that does is contribute to the noise and encourage the dog to keep barking. “It just sounds like you’re barking along with him,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Instead, put on a calm and positive demeanor. “Just as you read your dog’s body language, she will react to yours; the more relaxed and happy you can seem, the easier it will be to manage your dog at the door,” Rover.com’s The Dog People says. If you don’t make such a big deal about someone at the door, your dog ideally will pick up on those cues.

2. Determine your dog’s motivation

A dog looking out of a window in a door

To successfully train your dog to react properly when the doorbell rings you’ll have to figure out why they’re barking to begin with. According to PetMD, barks might stem from territorial or protective feelings, fear, loneliness, boredom, playfulness, a greeting, wanting attention and more.

Most reactions to someone at the door lean toward either fear or excitement. And learning to read your dog’s body language will help you determine what they’re feeling. Some fear signals include ears pulled back, a low tail and pacing, according to The Dog People. But a happy, excited dog might run back and forth between you and the door with full body wags. Read between the barks to see what emotions the doorbell is bringing out in your dog.

3. Teach commands for quiet — and speak

If you’ve taken your dog to obedience school, then you might know they first must learn to speak before they learn to be quiet. To train your dog to speak, HSUS says to “give your dog the command to ‘speak,’ wait for him to bark two or three times, and then stick a tasty treat in front of his nose. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat until he starts barking as soon as you say ‘speak.’”

Once you have that down, follow the “speak” command with a “quiet.” Praise and treat your dog when they stop barking on command. HSUS recommends practicing the “quiet” command in increasingly more distracting environments, working up to someone ringing the doorbell. That way, your dog can alert you to the “intruder” at the door but stop barking at your command.

4. Designate a greeting spot

The issues with dogs and doorbells don’t stop with barking. Some dogs might jump on guests or even bolt out the open door. For those dogs, consider training them to go to a designated greeting spot any time the door is opened.

“The idea is to make the ‘greeting spot’ more rewarding for the dog than running to the door would be,” according to Animal Behavior College. “It will be the dog’s determination of what he finds the most rewarding, so always keep in mind the things your dog is most interested in. In most cases the best reward to a dog will be a certain type of edible treat.”

Sit your dog in the greeting spot — you might have to safely tether them there at first — and have someone ring the doorbell. Praise and treat your dog when they focus on you and not the person at the door. This will take a lot of practice, but eventually your dog should see that as their go-to spot when someone’s at the door.

5. Hold practice sessions

Once your dog has learned the right commands for how to behave when someone’s at the door, you’ll have to desensitize them to the doorbell itself. Have friends or family pose as visitors at the door, so you can work on the doorbell commands with your dog.

Repeat as long as you still have your dog’s focus, and reward them for good behavior. “You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats!),” HSUS says. And remember change won’t happen overnight. Training might take weeks or even months before those barks are under control.

6. Give your dog enough mental and physical activity

Jack Russell terrier waiting at the door with a leash

If you’ve tried training methods and you’re still having trouble calming your dog when someone’s at the door, it might just be that your fur kid has too much energy.“ Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day,” HSUS says. “A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration.”

Try doorbell training after you’ve exercised your dog. They should be able to focus better after burning off some energy. But always consult a vet first before changing their fitness routine.

7. Use consistent, positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement and consistency are the gold standard in training a dog to do anything. Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated or angry with your dog as you train them. They’ll read your mood and be less open to following your commands. Instead, make training feel like a game with treats and praise, so they want to keep playing along.

And keep your commands consistent, so your dog isn’t confused. “Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately,” HSUS says. “You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.” As time goes by, the appropriate reaction should become ingrained in both you and your dog. And answering your door hopefully won’t have to be such a fiasco.

Main image credit: chrisdarnall/Thinkstock

55 comments

Louise R
Louise R15 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Angeles M
Angeles M22 days ago

Thank you

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Anna R
Anna R23 days ago

Thanks

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Emma L
Emma L24 days ago

thank you

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Janis K
Janis K25 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Paulo R
Paulo R26 days ago

ty

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Marija M
Marija M26 days ago

tks

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Kathy K
Kathy K26 days ago

Thanks.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O26 days ago

th

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