For many people, it’s a familiar scene: You’re sitting on the couch, unwinding after a long day, when someone knocks on the door. Suddenly, your home is echoing with alarmed barking, a streak of dog racing toward the now threatening entrance to your home, determined to let your guests know this house is protected.
This scenario is one of the most common complaints dog trainers hear: my dog barks at the door when people come over. So why do dogs bark at the door and what can you do to teach your dog a better response?
Dogs bark for a lot of reasons: fear, to alert you, to demand something, for attention, out of boredom, because they just enjoy it, to make themselves seem big and scary, to communicate with another dog… I could probably fill a page with potential reasons your dog is barking. So while it’s nice to know the reason (and in some cases it is fairly obvious or can be guessed), most of the time you can train your dog to stop whether or not you know why it’s happening.
For almost all unwanted behaviors, the most effective way to train your dog to stop is to replace the unwanted behavior with a behavior you do like. My favorite alternative to barking at the door is a “place” cue. Place teaches your dog to go to a particular spot (generally somewhere comfortable like a bed or mat works best) and stay there until you tell them it is okay to leave that spot.
To teach your dog to go to a place instead of barking at the door, your eventual goal will be that the cue to do "place" is someone knocking or ringing your doorbell. So the finished behavior will go something like this: someone knocks, your dog goes and lays on their place, you let in the visitor and then tell your dog a release word (I like “free”) that means you can now come off the bed and greet the visitor.
Note: If your dog is fearful of visitors, this scenario may play out a little differently. In that situation, you are probably better off having them go somewhere out of sight when guests arrive (such as their crate or a separate room) and then bringing them out once everyone is settled on leash to work on some counter-conditioning (see my earlier post on fear for a few details about that).
But if your dog is comfortable enough around strangers that they can greet them nicely once they have calmed down, the place cue can be a great option.
If you have never trained or seen a "place" cue before, this video by Kikopup demonstrates one way to train it. (And if you are not following Kikopup on YouTube, I highly recommend her channel for great dog training videos!)
Generally, I start a place by standing near the dog’s bed and breaking down the behavior into baby steps – the dog moves toward the bed, or puts one foot on, I mark the behavior as good (with a click or a “yes”) and reward. I always reward on the bed when beginning this cue so they start to associate the bed with good things. Once they understand going on the bed, I add in the cue (I use “place” – some people, like in the Kikopup video, use a cue such as “go to your bed”). Then I start to build a “stay” while they are on the bed and add in the release cue, “free,” so they learn that is when they are allowed to leave the bed.
For working this with the door, I will eventually enlist the help of another person to beginning adding in a door knock or doorbell ring. The first time, I will have them knock softly or ring the doorbell once. As soon as that sound happens, I’ll cue “place” and heavily reward the dog for doing the place cue instead of running to the door barking. You want going to their place to be more exciting than the door, so you need to use a lot of high-value reinforcement in the beginning. The first few times, they may still want to go to the door, and it is okay to talk in an excited voice, move around in a fun way or use a few extra treats as you are first teaching this to get them really into doing the place instead. If this is still too hard, start with just one soft knock, even if it is you knocking on the wall where they can see it.
Like any behavior, if you have trouble teaching this on your own, or it is not working for your dog, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a qualified trainer. But if you train this behavior correctly, it can be a fantastic tool that gives you a much calmer dog when guests come over and less stress for you when someone is at the door.
3/31/2021 07:07:32 am
Training your dog is important. If you do not give your dog some proper training early on, then that is just a waste. I mean, dogs are capable of learning so much, and we need to make the most happen during their younger days. I hope that we can try to make our dogs a bit better. There are just way too much possibilities if we try to train our dogs. This dog is a prime example of that exactly.
7/7/2022 09:09:52 pm
Thank you so much for explaining why it is that dogs bark. I had thought that this always meant a sign of aggression or rebellion, but this definitely seems to mean a lot more than I initially thought. I'll keep this in mind and work around it when I take my dog to a pet training service in the area.
8/2/2022 01:21:18 pm
I like how you mentioned that all unwanted dog behaviors can be fixed by replacing them with good acts. Would it be a good idea to work with a trainer in order to prevent bad behavior? It seems like working with a trainer would be a good way to enforce good behavior in a dog.
8/8/2022 07:07:21 am
It made sense when you mentioned that your dog must go somewhere out of sight when they are fearful of visitors. My brother wants to train his dog not to bark all the time. I should advise him to take a dog training program for proper procedure.
9/8/2022 10:47:47 pm
I like how you mentioned that you could control your dog if you trained them with or without a leash. Last night, my cousin told me that his dog is smart and he was planning to enroll his dog in a dog training program to communicate better. He asked if I had any idea what would be the best option to consider. I love this instructive article, I'll be sure to tell him that they can consult a trusted dog training program as they can provide more information about the training process.
9/23/2022 03:54:32 am
Mostly dogs like Calming Dog Bed which is made of super soft fur and filled with pp cotton and other material. best for dogs
10/27/2022 06:07:56 am
My dog has been barking a lot lately, and I'm not sure how to remedy this. It makes sense that training him to go to a different place other than the door when he's barking would be beneficial. I might benefit from a professional trainer to help me out with learning effective training methods.
11/2/2022 02:44:39 am
Thank you for noting that your ultimate goal will be to have someone knocking on your door or ringing your doorbell serve as the cue for your dog to go to "place" rather than barking at it. My husband mentioned wanting to have a dog. I'll advise him to enroll his dog in a training program.
12/15/2022 11:49:54 am
Thank you for explaining how "place" can help with keeping them from barking at the front door. We've been wondering how to help our dog be less scared about people near our front door. I'll be sure to try this out and maybe look into obedience training as well.
1/23/2023 12:53:40 am
what do you do if your fire system doesn't work? you don't want to be in the position where you need to leave your business premises unguarded and at risk of fire. If you are caught out with your system breaking down, then you will need to act quickly to make sure that your premises are kept safe and that your insurance will continue to cover you.
2/2/2023 03:39:22 pm
It's great that you elaborated that the barking of dogs has different meanings such as boredom, fear, and wanting attention. Yesterday, my brother informed me that his dog is clever. He planned to enroll his dog in an obedience dog training program for better communication and obedience traits. He asked if I had thoughts on the best option for a great process. I love this enlightening article, I'll tell him they can consult a trusted behavioral dog training program as they can provide details about the training procedure.
Do you need to repair or update old insufficient wiring? We got you covered! Here at Hero Services, we’ll analyze your existing electrical system and make recommendations so you can relax. We’ll learn about energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness so you can have peace of mind.
Do You Have a Damaged Air Conditioning Unit ? Problems with AC units come up at the most unexpected time. This causes discomfort for everyone on the property. At Hero Services, we provide a broad range of services to handle any problems you might have with your air conditioning system. We offer regular maintenance services to help prevent issues from arising in the first place.
Leave a Reply.
Sarah is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge and Skills Assessed. She lives in the Texas Hill Country near Austin with her two dogs, Percy, a cattle dog mix, and Clara, a lab/German Shepherd.