Do you dread someone ringing your doorbell because it sends your dog into fits of barking or jumping? You aren’t alone. Many dogs get overly excited when the doorbell rings.
The jumping, barking, and lunging is not only frustrating for dog owners (and visitors)— it’s also stressful for our dogs. Fortunately, you can help minimize the behavior by teaching doorbell manners. By desensitizing your dog to the sound of the doorbell, and teaching them to quietly go to a place and wait when it rings, life will be a lot calmer when you get deliveries or have visitors.
Read on to learn how to teach your pup some doorbell etiquette.
Shift Associations With the Doorbell Sound
If your dog is very excited or hyped up about the sound of the doorbell, you’ll need to retrain and desensitize them to the sound. You can do this either by using your actual doorbell or a recorded doorbell noise, which is easy to find on YouTube.
1. Start with high-value treats, like very smelly and/or sticky treats that take a little while for dogs to eat (such as peanut butter or spray cheese in a toy or on a silicone plate).
2. Show the treat to your dog. While they’re licking at the treat in your hand, push the doorbell noise.
3. Praise your dog as they continue to lick.
4. Repeat several times. When your dog is consistently licking/eating treats, even when the doorbell sounds, you can try pushing the doorbell before giving the treat, and then, as the doorbell rings, offer the treat and lots of praise.
Go to Place
Once your dog has gotten used to the sound of the doorbell, we want to teach them to go to bed when the doorbell rings. Giving your dog something to do that is incompatible with barking/jumping/scratching at the door will allow you to more appropriately engage with your deliveries and guests while also allowing your dog to be successful. It’s helpful to have someone to help you train who can stand outside and push the doorbell. But if you’re training alone, you can access doorbell noises online.
1. When the doorbell sounds, get your dog’s attention with the high-value treat and, with a happy voice, praise your dog and use the treat to lure them to their bed or crate. When your dog is on the bed, give them the treat.
2. Repeat this during several training sessions over multiple days.
3. When your dog is consistently following you/the treat to their bed, you can introduce a cue like “go to bed” or “place” as you continue to guide them and then treat.
4. As your dog becomes more confident, start to phase out the physical lure by asking your dog to “go to bed” and then treating when your dog is in bed.
5. Over time, you can continue to work on this skill as you open the door and pretend to talk to a person and/or talk to your training assistant. Continue to praise your dog and walk to the bed to treat them for staying there.
Doorbell Becomes the Cue
Consistency is key when working to teach, or reteach, doorbell manners to your dog. The ultimate goal of the above exercises is that the doorbell ringing is going to eventually become the cue for your dog to go to their bed and wait to be treated. This allows you to retrieve packages, talk to a person, or let your guests in without your dog getting hyped up or in the way. This will make door interactions safer and less stressful for everyone, dog and human. Even once your dog is experienced at this skill, it’s a good idea to have a treat jar stored somewhere near the front door. That way you can quickly reward your dog if someone unexpectedly comes to the door, or a package is delivered, instead of going in search of treats.
Multiple Dog Considerations
If you have an older dog in the home who gets overly excited about the doorbell and you are bringing a new puppy home, do yourself a favor and try to keep the dogs separate when the doorbell rings. Otherwise, your puppy is very likely to learn unwanted patterns about how to react to the doorbell from your older dog. Put one dog in another part of the house, or in a crate, while you work with the other dog on doorbell manners, and then swap. Once both dogs are successfully able to react quietly and go to their appropriate place when the doorbell rings, you can slowly begin training sessions where both dogs are out together.
When teaching doorbell manners, or reteaching new responses to the doorbell, try to set your dog up for success—especially when it comes to safety. If your dog has a tendency to dart at doors, keep them on a leash if you know someone will be visiting or a delivery is going to arrive. You can also use baby gates or X-pens to create a barrier and prevent your dog from getting near the door and making a burst for freedom.
The doorbell manners skill is being tested in the new Virtual Home Manners Adult (VHMA), so, if you want to earn that title with your dog, this is a great opportunity to work toward it.