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Dogs often bark at the door to the home, especially when the doorbell rings. This is normal. However, sometimes it can go too far.
You don’t exactly want your dog to be barking at everyone who comes to visit. To teach your dog to stay calm at the door, you first need to understand the reason for the behaviour and find a way to properly address it.
There are many possible reasons why a dog might bark at the door. They include the following:
1. It’s alerting you to a visitor.
When your dog hears a knock or a ring at the door, it’ll expect you to respond.
Dogs learn fast. It already knows that you usually open the door when there’s a knock or a ring of the doorbell. If you don’t respond immediately, it might decide to bark to alert you that there’s a visitor at the door.
It’s simply their way of communicating the event at the door. Just like when you say to your kids “call me if someone knocks at the door”, dogs can also call you!
2. It’s fearful.
Naturally, dogs are protective animals. That’s why the police often use them in their security operations. Homeowners also use bigger dogs such as German Shepherds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Boxers to help secure their homes.
Breeds that make good guard dogs tend to protect their owners from possible danger. They’re usually alert and can sense any form of danger fast.
Something like a doorbell or a knock can throw them off guard and make them afraid, because they don’t know what it is.
When you hear your dog barking, it may be afraid of something in its surroundings. A ringing of the doorbell could put it into a fearful state, and they may think that there’s an intruder with bad intentions at the door.
The barking in this situation is also meant to serve as a calling to the owners.
3. It’s curious.
Not all barking signals fear. Sometimes dogs are just curious of what is on the other side of the door.
When a visitor comes to the door, the dog may think that a new member is joining the family. It sounds silly, but dogs can think this way.
Dogs like attention, and they want people and other dogs to play with them. In this case, their curiosity may have to do with whether or not this new person will play with them.
You may notice that your dog doesn’t stop barking even after you’ve opened the door. Sometimes, dogs just want to know who’s on the other side of the door and that’s all.
4. It’s irritated.
How would you feel when your toddler dashes into your bedroom and pours water on your bed while you’re having a perfect night’s sleep?
Not too happy, right? That’s the worst way to disturb someone.
This also applies to dogs. It could be sleeping peacefully or just playing with its toys. A sudden ring or knock at the door can irritate the dog, or startle it and increase its heart rate.
Since it didn’t want to be interrupted, it can become angry. And what better way of expressing this than to bark?
5. It wants to go outdoors.
Dogs like to have fun and explore. It could spend a lot of its time indoors, but the time will come when it wants to get some fresh air and explore outside. Dogs may also like to play with other dogs from the neighborhood.
Being on the wrong side of a closed door can be a huge disappointment. In this case, when a visitor comes to the door, the dog may bark because it wants to be let out.
Conversely, if the dog is outside, it may want to come in, and it communicates this by barking. In such a scenario, the barking usually stops immediately once you open the door and let it run happily inside.
6. It’s greeting a visitor.
When your neighbours or visitors show up at the doorstep, how does your dog respond? Most dogs won’t be fearful, especially when they recognize whoever is at the door.
Many dogs bark and wag their tails at familiar people as a way to greet or welcome them. This is how they express their excitement and socialize.
Some dogs who bark in these situations may also jump up and down and even run around. This can also happen when the owner comes home.
7. It’s expressing loneliness.
Dogs are like humans in that they need company and socialization in order to stay healthy. Sometimes, they’re okay with being alone, but there will come a time when they want some companionship.
If you don’t spend enough time with your dog (for example, you’re away from home a lot), it may bark at the door because it wants company. Barking at the door may also be a way to test whether you’ve come back or not.
Training & Conditioning
For centuries, dogs have been wired to bark at intruders, so one of best solutions to stop the barking is by training the dog to do so.
It’s important to understand that dogs do not bark in response to just any noise. When the the doorbell rings or there’s a knock at the door, the dog may expect the door to open and a stranger to enter the house.
The stranger poses a threat to the dog, who is programmed to bark when there is someone intruding on its territory: the home where it is living. Thus, one way to stop the barking is to make the dog stop associating the knock or ring with an intruder.
How To Stop A Dog From Barking At The Door
Understanding the causes of your dog barking at the door is an important step, but you still need to take action to stop the behaviour.
There are many ways to train your dog to stop barking every time someone comes to the door. The best approaches depend on the cause of your dog’s barking.
Here is an effective solution you can put into practice today if your dog isn’t fearful or aggressive towards unfamiliar people:
If you have a friend or family member who can help, that’s great. Try this: have the helper stand outside and ring the doorbell repeatedly. Don’t open the door; instead, give your dog one of its favourite treats so that it eats instead of barking continuously.
You can continue with this training for some time (several weeks or more), until the dog stops barking whenever the doorbell rings. In cases where you don’t have access to any help, use a tape recorded version of the doorbell ringing and give the dog a treat accordingly.
There are other noises like the gate opening or closing, footsteps of a person climbing the stairs, or a knock on the door, which the dog can also associate with an intruder coming into the house. Of course, this can make the dog bark loudly, causing a disturbance to the people in the area and the pet owner.
Just like the training for the doorbell ringing, the dog should be conditioned not to associate these noises with an intruder coming into the house.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is to give the dog a treat if these noises occur or if it stops barking. Over time, the dog will associate these noises with pleasant things (a treat), stay calm, and stop the barking.
Even if the visitor is not making any sound, some dogs will bark whenever they see someone approaching the house because they are conditioned to do so.
For example, the mailman might ring the doorbell when delivering the mail, and the dog will start barking when it sees the person through the window.
One solution to this is to keep the dog in a room where it can’t view anyone who is approaching the house, at least during the day. In other situations, the drapes can be closed so that the dog doesn’t notice who is coming into the house.
As we discussed in the causes section, many dogs will bark loudly out of excitement to welcome a person entering the house, and they will even bark when the pet owner returns home.
Dogs will often surround the person entering and bark loudly. The most effective way to deal with this behaviour is by training the dog to engage in some other activity.
For example, the dog usually has a dog bed for resting. Instead of running around and jumping on visitors, the dog should be trained to go and sit on its bed. We suggest offering a treat to the dog on or near the bed so that the dog also has something to keep it occupied.
As a dog owner, you should be aware that although a dog who is trained not to bark at the door might behave in the desired way for a few weeks or months, there is a possibility that the training will be forgotten over time due to the natural conditioning of dogs to bark at people who they are not familiar with.
Hence, if you find that your dog is starting to bark again upon hearing noise at the door, you should restart the training as described above. As you do this more and more, the dog will behave as desired for longer periods, and it will eventually stick for the long term.
A note on bark collars: these can stop your dog from barking, but we only recommend using them if the normal training methods don’t work. This is because these collars can increases the stress and anxiety of the dog and result in it barking even more.
This helpful video will give you visuals and additional insights into stopping your dog from barking at the door:
Keep in mind that it can take time for these training methods to yield results. If they’re successful, it’s very much worth it, but sometimes, dogs won’t respond well to them.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to stop the barking despite your best efforts. In these cases, your dog may need professional help.
You could get the advice of a professional behaviorist or the help of a dog trainer. But professional dog trainers can be extremely expensive – hundreds of dollars per hour of help. Not many dog owners can afford this kind of expense.
There’s a solution. You can get instant access to a dog training program by a certified dog trainer with over a decade of experience working with clients.
This trainer has figured out that barking issues fundamentally come down to learning how to calm your dog down and help it regain control of its emotions.
And so he’s put together a series of emotional control exercises that have been proven to overcome barking at the door and other barking issues.
This dog training package is substantial, and it costs a tiny fraction of what you would pay for the services of a typical dog trainer or behaviorist.
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Best of luck in correcting your dog’s barking problem!
Thanks for reading this article. Do you have problems with your dog barking at the door? Feel free to share your experiences or ask questions in the comments below.
Thanks for this. Giving treats to my 6-year-old Fox Terrier worked a treat (pun intended)! I found that using substantial treats like meat worked well, as opposed to less valuable treats. By the 1-month mark, she had pretty much stopped all door barking. I just want to say though that I don’t think this method will work for dogs with aggression problems. What do you think about that?
Hah, glad to hear that Pamela. It does work well when a dog is barking out of curiosity or for attention.
You’re right that the treat method likely won’t work with aggressive dogs; in fact, it might make the situation worse. In such cases, I recommend employing normal training and rehab methods geared towards aggressive dogs. For more insight, people can check out some of our aggression articles like this one. If the problem is more severe, have a look at the program I mention at the end of the article.