A Quick Fix to Doggie Doorbell Drama
When teaching your dog polite behaviors, you have a choice: training or management. Training doorbell etiquette involves teaching your dog to do a polite behavior like a sit-stay instead of running and barking at the door. It’s a great skill but requires methodical implementation on the owner’s part, plus high impulse control on the dog’s part.
Management, on the other hand, is easier to apply. It involves setting up an environment in which barking and jumping at the door is impossible, simply by removing the dog from that area. The downside is that management doesn’t teach your dog to be polite; it only prevents him from engaging in the rude behavior. Still, it provides a great quick fix until you can implement a training protocol.
Related: Teach Your Dog to Love Coming to You
Here are the steps to what I call “Breakfast in Bed,” a way to manage both doorbell reactivity and the inevitable jumping on guests that follows.
- Practice several repetitions of (A) ringing the doorbell (or playing a doorbell recording) and (B) immediately giving your dog a super tasty treat that he normally doesn’t have. We are conditioning him to associate the doorbell with top-notch treats. Practice this until your dog, hearing the bell, will consistently run to you for the treat rather than run to the door.
- Once he gets the “game,” stuff lots of those tasty treats in a treat-dispensing toy. If your dog loves peanut butter, you can freeze a Kong Classic with peanut butter inside, which will take your dog several minutes to enjoy. Now, when you ring the bell, happily exclaim “breakfast in bed!” Run to grab your stuffed toy, and toss the toy in your bedroom or in the dog’s crate. Encourage your dog to follow. Once inside, shut the door, leaving your dog alone to eat.
- After a minute or whenever he’s done eating, sneak into the bedroom. Before letting him out, ask him to “sit” first. Give the cue only once. If your dog sits, swing the door open and let him out. If he does not sit, shut the door and wait 5-10 seconds, then try again. Only polite dogs get the reward of being released.
- Practice this sequence many times before guests actually come over, so it’s like second nature. Always have a stuffed toy ready in case you get a surprise ring or knock at the door.
When friends come over, I recommend leaving your dog in the bedroom with a buffet of goodies until your guests have settled into chairs and are less excited themselves. Once your guests are relaxed, you can release your dog.
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer at Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY, and author of the training book, "BKLN Manners." She draws upon her experience as an educator and dog trainer to apply positive training techniques to a challenging urban environment. Kate is a rescue advocate drawn to special-needs dogs and currently has two Chihuahua mixes, Batman and Beans.
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