As you’re eating dinner, the Amazon delivery driver arrives at your door. The dogs are, thankfully, too busy begging to notice him. Just as you think you’re going to get away with enjoying the silence of your dog’s obliviousness, the delivery driver does something uncalled for: he rings the doorbell.
The dogs are in a frenzy, running to the door and barking raucously. This goes on for the next five minutes while you unsuccessfully tell them “quiet” or “enough.” This isn’t the only time your dogs have burst out into a cacophony of yips. No, they always go crazy when someone is at the door.
Training your dogs to be calm when someone comes to visit is very possible, but it will take time. Many dogs have been barking at the door for years, so it’ll take at least a few weeks of consistent practice (if not more) before they can be expected to stop.
Since all dogs are different, we’ve provided three different methods you can try to get your dog to stop barking at the door. With patience, practice, and yummy treats, your dog will master the art of being silent when someone knocks.
- Method 1: Desensitize Your Dog
- Method 2: Teach Your Dog to Go to Her Place
- Method 3: Teach Your Dog to Bark
- No More Barking
Method 1: Desensitize Your Dog
One of the best ways to get your dog to stop barking at the door is to desensitize them to it. Desensitization is the process of using rewards to teach your dog to be calm in the face of certain stimuli.
Step 1: Identify the Triggers
First, you have to identify what triggers your dog into barking at the door. For most dogs, this includes the sound of knocking and the sound of the doorbell. Other common triggers include the sound of the door handle being turned (or unlocked), as well as the door being opened and someone entering.
Step 2: Trigger and Reward
Once you know what triggers your dog, you need to expose her to each trigger separately and reward calm behavior. To set yourself up for success, start each trigger at a low intensity and work your way up.
For example, instead of knocking on the door, knock once on a hardwood floor or a wall away from the door and give your dog a treat. Most dogs won’t bark at this, but if yours does, wait until she is quiet before rewarding. You can eventually move to knocking on actual doors, like a bathroom door. Save the front door for last.
You can replicate the sound of the doorbell using your phone, just keep the volume low. When it comes to people entering, start out with you and your family members going out and coming back in the door after having been home all day.
Repeat the low-intensity exercises several times before increasing the difficulty. If you move to a higher intensity version of the trigger and your dog barks, you may want to take things down a notch.
Step 3: Put the Triggers Together
After you’ve worked on each trigger separately and your dog is calm with each, start putting them together. Just as before, you still want to start with low intensity even if your dog is doing great with each trigger on its own.
For instance, you might choose to knock on the bathroom door and then open it instead of doing this at the front door. When you do make it to the front door, be sure to keep a leash on your dog so she can’t escape while you’re working on desensitization.
Step 4: Invite Someone Over
Now that your dog is comfortable with you and others living with her going in and out, knocking on the door, etc., it’s time to get a friend involved. Don’t worry about how your dog reacts when your friend first arrives. Even though you’ve done a lot of desensitization, this is still new to your dog and also needs to be done starting with low intensity.
After your friend has been over long enough that your dog is calm or even uninterested in them, start the training. Have your friend go outside and knock on the door. Reward your dog for being quiet.
If she does bark, either try rewarding your dog before she has a chance to bark or take things down a notch. Practice with your friend on separate occasions until your dog is always calm when they knock and enter.
Finally, have a friend come over and work with your dog when they initially knock or ring the doorbell. If your dog barks, wait until she is calm before rewarding her and letting your friend in. All that’s left to do is practice every time someone comes over!
Method 2: Teach Your Dog to Go to Her Place
Some dogs do better when they are somewhat removed from the situation. It can also be helpful for dogs to have a command to follow so they know what to do instead of barking. This is why teaching a dog to go to a specific spot in the house (usually a mat or dog bed) can work well for avid barkers.
Step 1: Create Positive Associations
Once you’ve set up your dog’s mat, you need to build positive associations with it. If this is a bed your dog frequently lays on, you’re already ahead.
Whenever your dog gives the mat any attention, such as sniffing it or stepping on it, mark the behavior with a clicker or the word “yes” and reward her with a treat. If you need to, you can also lure her onto the bed using a treat.
Start saying your command (common choices are “bed,” “place,” “mat”) before you lure her onto the bed. Practice with your dog until she starts going to the bed when you use the command.
After you’ve rewarded her for being on the bed, you can use a release word (free, go play, okay) and lure your dog off the mat, but don’t give her a treat for this. Reward her if she returns to the mat of her own free will.
Step 2: Get Your Dog to Lay Down
Get your dog to lay down on the mat. You can either lure her into a down with a treat, ask her to lay down using vocal cues and hand signals, or wait for her to do it herself. Reward her for laying down, then release her. Repeat this exercise, slowly increasing the duration of time your dog is to stay laying on the mat before you reward and release her.
Step 3: Add Distance
Once your dog is reliably going to the mat and laying down with you close by, you can start to add distance. Do this slowly, only move away from the mat about a foot at a time. Ask your dog to go to her place, and reward her if she obeys. Make sure you go to her to give the reward.
If she doesn’t go to her mat, go back to the last distance where she listened and practice more. Build up to being able to ask her to go to her place from anywhere in the house.
Step 4: Add Distractions While Your Dog Is on Their Mat
If your dog is reliably going to her place from anywhere in the house, it’s time to add some distractions. Start off by asking her to go to her place, then knock on something near her or play the sound of a doorbell with the volume turned down.
If she remains on her mat, reward her. If she moves, get her back onto her mat and try again with a less intense distraction. Increase the intensity of the distractions slowly, and work with triggers such as the door knob turning and the door opening. After all, the point of this exercise is for your dog to stay calm when someone comes to the door.
Step 5: Add Distractions While Using the Command
Next, add distractions while your dog is not on the mat. Knock softly on the wall or the floor, and tell your dog to go to her mat. Reward obedience. Just as before, increase the intensity of these distractions while asking your dog to go to her place.
Work your way up to having a friend at the door act as a distraction. Eventually, your dog will go to her mat and remain there no matter what distractions are about. For more information on how to build up the intensity of distractions, read our section on desensitization if you haven’t.
Method 3: Teach Your Dog to Bark
It may seem counterintuitive to teach your dog to bark when you want her to stop barking, but it can actually work. When you teach your dog to bark, it’s easier to teach a cue to get her to stop. So, essentially you teach your dog to speak, and then to be quiet.
Though your main goal in teaching this will be to get your dog to stop barking at the door, it is a well-received trick. Your friends will be so impressed that your dog speaks on command and doesn’t bark at the doorbell!
Step 1: Get Your Dog to Bark
In order to teach your dog to speak on command, you need to get her to bark first. There are a few ways to do this.
The first is to hold up a treat until your dog barks. Dogs that tend to be vocal may bark right away. Other dogs may go through a gambit of tricks they know to see which one will get the reward until finally figuring out that they need to bark.
Other dogs may need a bit more help though. Many dogs will bark during play. Try to get your dog excited while playing until she barks.
Step 2: Mark the Behavior
Once your dog barks, you need to immediately mark the behavior and reward it. You can do so by saying “yes” the moment your dog barks and following up with a tasty treat. Using a clicker is also a great option as the dog will understand the exact moment in which she performed the treat-rewarding action.
Repeat steps one and two until your dog understands that she should bark to get a treat.
Step 3: Add the Command
Now it’s time to add the command. When your dog barks, say “speak” and give her her reward. You want to say speak as your dog is barking so she can associate the action with the word.
You can also add a hand signal. A common one for this trick is to start with your hand open, palm facing your dog. Then, repeatedly bring your four fingers to touch your thumb.
By the way, dogs are actually better at following physical gestures than verbal cues. So, while you can get by without using a hand signal, you’ll probably have better results if you do.
Now, all that’s left to do is repeat these steps over and over until your dog is able to bark on command. Once your dog is barking reliably, you can teach her to be quiet.
Step 4: Teach “Quiet”
You want to teach “quiet” the same way you taught “speak.” Essentially, catch your dog being quiet and reward her for it. You can ask your dog to speak, reward the speak, and when she stops barking, reward her and say “quiet.”
Some dogs that learn speak will bark a couple of times on command and then stop, whereas others will keep going and going. They’ll also bark when you don’t ask them to because you’ve just taught them that barking will get them a treat.
Don’t ever give your dog a treat if you did not command her to speak. For these dogs that keep barking, ignore them until they are quiet. The moment they are, say “quiet” while rewarding the behavior.
Need a demonstration? Check out this video of professional dog trainer Zak George teaching a dog to speak and be quiet.
No More Barking
Hopefully, one of these methods will help you manage your dog’s barking. Remember to always be consistent in your training methods. Everyone in the house has to be on the same page; otherwise, you might confuse your pooch and lose progress. Avoid yelling at your dog to stop barking, as sometimes this will actually incite her even more.
If none of the methods in our article helped you, consider if your dog might have an underlying issue like anxiety. Desensitization can help with anxiety, but you may need to seek help from a professional trainer or behaviorist.