Do you get a bit anxious when you hear someone knock at the door, because you know your dog is about to berserk? If your dog barks at the door, you’re definitely not alone!
Barking at the door or doorbell and jumping on guests are two of the most common dog behavior problems out there. Yes – barking at the door is normal dog behavior.
But that doesn’t mean you have to just live with it.
We’ll talk through some ways to teach your dog to stop barking at the door in this article. If you’d like a more in-depth workbook, check out my e-book, Polite Greetings 101.
How to Stop Your Dog From Barking at the Door
- Put up a little sign that asks people to call you instead of barking or knocking. I tape over my doorbell and have a clear sign with my phone number. I’ve had clients just stop with this step – if no one knocks, their dogs don’t bark. They can even take their dogs out to let someone in – most dogs are much calmer meeting people out front versus in the doorway. Problem solved.
- Start Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. This 15-day program actually includes teaching your dog to calmly lie on his mat during increasingly distracting scenarios, including people knocking on the door and coming in. If you just do steps 1 and 2, you’ll actually be in good shape.
- Door knock = dog on bed = JACKPOT!
- Softly knock on a table when your dog is watching – we want him to hear the sound but not lose his mind about visitors.
- Toss some treats onto your dog’s bed.
- Repeat until your dog starts heading to the bed on his own when he hears the knock, because treats are going to appear there.
- Start to only toss treats if your dog heads to the bed/mat on his own. If you get stuck, go back to door knock = treats on bed.
- Gradually increase the volume and “randomness” of the door knocking or doorbell ring. This is where it’s tricky. Keep a training journal so you don’t move too quickly or plateau at the same level for too long.
- I use either the Train Away App or a hidden helper to randomly knock and/or ring the doorbell.
- It’s helpful to do just a few short, random sessions per day. If you do 5 repetitions in a row, your dog will quickly get it that it’s training time, not a “live event.”
- Start practicing with door knock = dog on bed/mat = dog treats, then going to open the door and having a fake conversation.
- Build up to actually inviting someone in. Every 2-3 seconds, toss a treat to your dog for staying on his bed/mat.
This approach teaches your dog what to do when someone comes in – rather than just stopping the barking. PERFECT!
Should I Use a Bark Collar to Stop My Dog from Barking at the Door?
While a bark collar (whether it’s citronella, ultrasonic, vibration, or shock-based) may work to stop your dog from barking, they’re not very kind tools to use.
As I said above, it’s normal for dogs to bark at the door. In fact, until very recently, this was a behavior that we bred dogs for! It’s not really fair to try to punish your dog for something that humans bred him for.
All of these collars can also be set off by something other than your dog barking – him hitting the collar against his bowl when he takes a drink, or a nearby loud noise. These collars only work because they’re unpleasant. So it’s really not nice to punish your dog unfairly!
Citronella and ultrasonic collars also punish ALL the dogs nearby – not just the barker.
E-collars collars can also cause burns (Massen et. al., 2018), especially when they’re used as bark collars (versus manual stimulation by a handler).
Finally, these collars don’t really treat the problem at its root. Sure, they stop your dog from barking. But your dog might still be WAY TOO AMPED UP, which can result in spinning, jumping, and even grabbing or biting at you.
That’s why we focus on teaching your dog what TO do instead of just stopping the barking!
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. When not working on Journey Dog Training, Kayla works at Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.