Desensitizing Your Dog with the Doorbell

Is This What it Looks Like When Someone Rings Your Doorbell?

When someone rings your doorbell, does it sound like World War III is starting at your house?  Most people’s dogs go crazy when the doorbell rings and they have a hard time controlling their dogs and the situation when people arrive.

Crazy barking is a conditional response and therefore it can be unconditioned with a little work and effort.

The first thing to understand is the behavior itself and how it got out of hand.  Dogs learn early on in their development that when the doorbell rings, someone is at the doorstep.  This situation brings a state if excitement, alertness, and sometimes agitation this mindset then leads to the barking.  This is a conditioned response, because with almost 100% consistency your dog has learned that when the doorbell rings someone is there waiting.

To break this response, and desensitize your dog we will need to teach him that when the doorbell rings he never knows when someone is there and that the correct response is to come to you for the appropriate response and reward.

You will need two people to help and get everyone in the family involved if you can.  If you do not have another person as an option, I will have you go out to your favorite hardware store and buy an additional doorbell that you can ring while you are in the house.

What You Need

  • A doorbell or someone to knock on the door
  • Your dog on a leash
  • Really, really good treats like boiled chicken breast cut up into pea sized pieces
  • Lots of patience!  It may take some time to break this habit!

Getting Started

First you are going to need to teach your dog about focus and eye contact.  If you have not please refer back to my article Training for a Relaxed and Calm Dog, you will need to be able to get your dog’s focus in order for this to be successful and take less time.

Running to the Door at First Will Defeat the Purpose

Position yourself so that you are not in direct eyesight of the door, this could make getting your dog’s focus more difficult in the beginning, especially if there is a window on or nearby the door.  This is also why we are going to keep your dog on a leash in the beginning to limit his ability to race to the door while barking.

Next, have your partner ring the doorbell.  As soon as the doorbell rings ask for eye contact and focus.  If your dog is barking hysterically try to break his attention on barking by making a loud noise such as “AHHH!” Followed by “Watch Me”, as soon as your dog is quiet for a millisecond click and reward or if you are not clicker training praise and treat as quickly as you can.

Tell your helper to wait until the barking has subsided for a few moments to ring the doorbell again! And continue this pattern, waiting until your dog is quiet to click and/or praise and treat!  If you are able to find success quickly you may be able to ask for other behaviors such as “sit” or “down” with the eye contact, but if you are finding this difficult then just be patient and reward the your dog the moment he is quiet.

Work on short training sessions and always end on a positive note where your dog has done well!

Your dog is beginning to learn that when the doorbell rings he should seek you out, quietly for a reward.  He is also learning that there is not always someone new waiting at the door.

Do this several times a day for a few weeks, until your dog is 95% quiet and reliable.  Then you may take him off of his leash for training.

Next, to add more desensitization to the effect, ring the doorbell at intermittent times throughout the day.  Just calmly go out or reach around and ring the doorbell.  Soon the doorbell will have much less meaning to your dog, because it will not be paired with the excitement of a new arrival.  Instead, your dog will never be certain when someone is at the door, or when it is a training exercise.

Teach Your Dog(s) to Sit and Wait in an Appropriate Spot When the Doorbell RingsIn order to have a lasting effect, you will need to be consistent with ringing the doorbell fairly frequently with no consequences of excitement.  That is not to say that your dog should not be rewarded for the correct response.  In order for this to be successful, your dog must be assured that a correct response will bring praise and a reward!

This is not only a fun “game” for your dog, it is a chance for you to bond and for you to teach your dog some much needed manners and self control when people do arrive!

 

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Comments

  1. george patrick says:

    how can i do training sessions with two new-to-me/my house. they are mail westies,litter mates, 4 years old to be adopted from rescue? they have a reputation of being inseparable (whining, howling until the other is in sight).

    [Reply]

    Mary Jo Morris Reply:

    How do I desensitize multiple househo;ld dogs? One at a time, or all together? They urge each other on to higher barking levels, just making matters worse.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You can start by separating them if that makes it easier and then once you have that conquered put them together for training.

    [Reply]

    Gail Reply:

    You could try having multiple handlers. Get others in the family to work with one dog each. You could swap frequently so that they get used to everyone in the family having the authority.

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    Barbara Reply:

    I also have the separation problem. 2 standard poodles who seem to be intolerant of being separated. How can I train them to let me walk / work one at a time an be out of each other’s sight?

    And I have the doorbell thing down now…but once the person is in the house…it’s keeping them from going nuts trying to “say hello”. Help there please.

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  2. Thank you I really needed this lesson on doorbell, and I think it might also work for the telephone. When my phone rings Mocha goes nuts. I think it is because I have always moved quickly to get to the phone, which he has aparently taken as excitement in me, and he probably learned it from me. I will start your training today.

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  3. angela says:

    i thought it was good for a dog to bark to scare off a bad guy i know it can be annoying but i find it to be her way of trying to protect her home i think people are taking away a dogs right to protect his or her family just like this whole new thing on getting a dogs bark to be taken away people are going to far muzzling there dogs so they cant bite or taking there voice away i like the fact that my dog barks cause i have 3 kids and can never hear anyone knock but when my dog barks i know most of the time but if she hears even the slightest noise she barks so sometimes i ignore it cause most of the times there is no one there dogs bark as there way of telling you if something is wrong that is there way of communicating we should not take that away to me that is another way of animal cruelty

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Some dogs go above and beyond just a simple warning, and some people are unable to even let people in do to the barking. All dogs are different and I agree with both points, I have dogs that will alert to danger but also will be quiet when I tell them that is enough, that is the mark of a good dog for me!

    [Reply]

    mocha master Reply:

    Wow Angela, do you ever take a breath in that paragraph? I think it is going a little too far – “dogs rights”? puhlease!!

    This is not talking about cutting out the dog’s vocal cords, just simple behavior training which the dog responds to and enjoys or it would not do it. This is reward based training, not beating the dog. The dog learns to choose of its own free will to behave this way – because it wants to.

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  4. Hansi says:

    Our Chihuahua&Aussie cross pup distinguishes between 1 ring = phone,
    2 rings = door, 3 rings = fax machine. He ignores 1 and 3 and only
    barks once or twice for 2 rings to alert us and then runs to the door to wait patiently for the elevator to get to our floor. Who says dogs cannot count.

    [Reply]

  5. NANA says:

    Thank you so much for this lesson!! I really need it, my dog starts acting like crazy when someone knock at the door specially with the doorbell.

    I need to work hard in this one. Thank you so much.

    [Reply]

  6. mary says:

    think you i will try this doorbell or should i get him use to the clicker frist and then the doorbell he uae to run to the door and want to jump on them and how he dont sent iv told he leve it but now he barkss and wait for them to come in and has to smell them and walk a way he has a habbit going to the windo now when some comming and barkes can i use the same methy as the door to stop him

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  7. Marilyn says:

    My dog not only barks but during the first few (5 or so) minutes will bite the visitor if they come in before we can corral him. After just a few minutes of holding him and talking to the visitor he calms down and we can put him down to go about his business. Later on he might even jump in their lap. He also did this once in a motel room on vacation. He scooted out the door when it opened and immediately bit the person standing by the next unit. I’ve pegged this as fear/aggression but maybe not. We don’t know what to do.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    First is control! You must control the situation and use a leash. Dogs are force-ably euthanized for biting, you owe it to yourself (you can be sued), your dog (he can be euthanized) and the bite victim to keep your dog on a leash at all times and not open doors without having him on a leash and in your control. He needs a lot of training and desensitizing utilizing the help of a professional who can come to you would be recommended due to the aggression.

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  8. what do i do if u have 4 dogs that go nuts when the door bell goes off or if some one knocks

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  9. Charlene says:

    I have used your training techniques for training my pug to sit, stay & now to also lay down & stay. All have been fairly easy with consistency. I am eager to teach her to focus with eye contact, & then to desensitize her with the doorbell exercise. I will let you know how that goes! I love that I can use your training lessons by just going to my computer. Thank you for all your fantastic training help!!!

    [Reply]

  10. Jenelle says:

    We are beginning our Doorbell Training today. I am using hot dogs and American cheese cut up into small bites. My dogs love to play”sit”, so I am hoping this will work.I am giving the training session 15 minutes. my husband is ringing the bell today, and then tomorrow I will ring it (giving hubby a break)..the dogs work well for both of us, so they should train fairly easily. I have learned to like hot dogs myself! But I won’t let the dogs know, as I think they would like to train ME! (tee hee)

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  11. Jenelle says:

    Chet thanks for the Training sessions, it is easier to do than having to go out..I also use the training for eye contact, sit and stay. It really works, and my dogs are happy and so that makes me happy. Thanks again.

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  12. Lori says:

    Hi! thanks so much for the training! I am learning so much and it is helping. We have a cute little bichon but he certainly has a few bad habits already….

    [Reply]

  13. Naomi says:

    Thank you for these tips.. For years we lived in an apartment that the buzzer was connected to our phone, our dogs would go crazy every time the hone rang because about 70% of the time it ment someone was comming in soon. We moved last summer to a house & so far they havent figured out the door bell, but still go nuts over phone calls.. Im deffinatly going to try your tips, & who knows, maybe in the near future i will be able to talk to friends & family on the phone without the loud barking..
    Our dogs are very hyper & excited when people visit (jumpin & pushing for attention) so Another thing we have done is put up a sign for people entering our home explaining our “house rules” which are :
    When entering our home no-one is allowed to talk to, pet / touch, or make eye contact with the dogs (essentially compleatly ignore them). Until the dogs are calm & relaxed.. When they are calm they are praised/rewarded. In a mear 3 weeks I have seen dramatic improvements in our dogs manners towards guests & people have been great about respecting these rules.

    [Reply]

  14. D&P's Mom says:

    Thank you for this. My 2 rescues, desperately need this.
    I was home on break today when a census taker came to the door – Balisticis rather a “light” description on my dogs’ behaviour and as others have stated, 1 eggs the other on.

    I will start this tomorrow when not working. Thanks again

    [Reply]

  15. Hi , I have three , soon to be four shih-tzus , my eldest a male not only barks when someone comes to the door but he bites the other dogs..could you tell me why this is please ?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    It is usually referred to as displacement biting (although I can’t see your dog so I can’t tell for sure).

    But dogs with this problem get so worked up in their minds they start biting anything that gets near them; when usually they get along with everyone otherwise.

    I would put him on a leash and work on these desensitization methods and having all of your dogs go to a place or a mat on command. Use the search tab about 1/4 of the way down this page and search “place” for more information.

    [Reply]

  16. Nick says:

    Hi, I live in a flat and my rescue terrier goes berserk and out of control when the main door buzzer goes. She barks incesantly and bites me when I try to answer the intercom (this is before the person gets anywhere near the flat). She jumps and lashes out; you cannot reprimand her at this point because she is unreachable mentally.
    Afterwards she clearly has no idea what she’s done. I live alone and I have had two professionals out to the flat to try and address this. One used domination and matched aggression with a tennis racquet barrier, the other advised flooding with repeatedly playing a recording of the buzzer to desensitise her. Neither worked.
    She frightens me when she’s in this state and I feel we are approaching the end of the road. She’s only 3 so potentially I have 11 more years of this behaviour and I don’t think this is something I can cope with.
    Please help.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    She may need medication talk to your vet and find a veterinary behaviorist who can put you both on a program for desensitization. I can’t see her so I can’t give you specific information you need a behaviorist NOT A TRAINER to come to the house and see the behavior.

    Medication may help you to train and work with this behavior instead of going straight to euthanasia.

    [Reply]

  17. Nick says:

    Hi Minette – thanks for the reply.
    A behaviourist did work with my dog – he was the one who used dominance and a tennis racquet and charged me £160.
    I have lived and tried to cope with this problem for two years and four months ever since getting her from the SSPCA. I have had no support from them and have taken her to training classes (where she was awarded her foundation certificate) and read all of the books (McConnell, Pryor, Fisher etc). I have also discussed her behaviour with the vet. He can find nothng medically wrong with her and is of the opinion that she will calm down in a year or so. I have a database of photographs of the many, many bires and bruises sustained over this time – mostly occuring when the door buzzer sounds.
    After all of the above, to say that I am going straight to euthanasia is a little unfair, but in my first post I had not indicated the length of time I have been living with this problem nor all of the measures so far tried!
    I worry now that this is a temperament issue which may never be capable of being altered. I wish there was someone out there who has experienced this particular problem and been able to resolve it.
    I have a recording of the buzzer and doorbell and thought that perhaps playing this to her at irregular intervals, trying to get her attention long enough to get her to sit and then offer a treat. This is particularly scray as she jumps and barks in an out of control fashion when the buzzer sounds and food, toys etc are of little interest when she is in this state.
    Thanks in advance for your help.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    i don’t know of any VET that would use those techniques. You need a VET not just someone who calls themselves a behaviorist. I could call myself a behaviorist but I am no vet. You need someone who can use drug therapy with behavior modification who can see it so you don’t get attacked. I can make guesses, but I don’t want to see you attacked or bleeding. So medication will lessen the dog’s reaction to the sound so you can use and employ desensitization and obedience.

    but I wouldn’t do anything without having a leash on the dog so you can step on the leash and pin the dog if you need to so you don’t get attacked.

    [Reply]

  18. Mich says:

    I know this may have come too late but I have used Prozac with my dog Charlie on the advice of a behaviourist. He is still not perfect but so much more manageable I would definitely say it has saved his life as the aggression was getting too dangerous when he was in this mind set. I couldn’t get anywhere with training around guarding behaviour even though he could do every trick in the book if there was chicken rewards. We are now making good progress although it does take 8-12 weeks for medication to start working

    [Reply]

  19. Fa says:

    What if my dog is the kind of dog who jumps, nips and attacks every single person who attempt to approach him and correct him from lunging and barking at the gate?
    Consider this situation, someone rings the doorbell- he dashes at the gate and guard the territory. I called him back but to no avail- treats doesnt work bcuz he will get it and run back or eat it and attack me. If I tried to go forward and guide him back, the moment I step into his zone, he lunges at me, nip me and if I don’t take control of the situation, he will attack me. His bite require stitches. Way alot of stitches. With your expertise, how do I correct him in the safest way for both of us?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would stop allowing him to rush to the gate. He is rewarding himself by being aggressive. Keep him in and put him on a leash and teach him an incompatible behavior like sit or down when people visit

    [Reply]

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