Dogs are uniquely suited to help us. It seems that they fill in wherever we are lacking. While we rely on sight, having relatively weak senses of smell and hearing, our dogs experience the world primarily through their ears and noses. While we are meticulous planners who sometimes forget to have fun, dogs are always reminding us to enjoy life and play. We should be able to trust our dogs to not only lift our spirits and remind us what’s fun in life, but also to alert us to things our weaker senses may miss, like someone at the door. If your dog doesn’t already bark frantically at the first sign of a visitor, teaching her to do so is simply a matter of pointing out the desired behavior and the reasoning for it. Alerting the group to a visitor is instinctual to most dogs, so it should not be difficult to reawaken this instinct in your passive pooch.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect to teach your dog is that she ought to be alert at all times to the specific stimulus of someone at the door. A good guard dog will wake from a dead sleep at the slightest knock or scuff from the doorway. Most attentive dogs learn to identify the mail or delivery trucks, and the vehicles of repeat visitors, and set off the alarm at the first sign of visitors. This is in some ways, however, a character trait. Some dogs are simply deep sleepers, and no amount of training will cause them to wake at the sound of the daily mail being delivered or a light tap at the door.
Your dog must learn what she is supposed to do when she hears the visitor. While barking is instinctual to most dogs, some dogs will only whine or run around excitedly, or hear but do nothing. You have to let your dog know that you would like to be alerted to the visitor and that you would like her to provide the alert by barking to you. If you have a large house or yard, you may want your dog to come to you to bark to inform you of the visitor.
For many dogs, the hardest part of learning to bark when someone is at the door is learning when to stop barking once the visitors are appropriately announced. While you want the person at the door to hear your dog bark before you open the door, once you are inviting someone in or receiving a package, you do not want to have to talk over your barking dog. Dogs keep barking at visitors because they have misunderstood their training to be not to bark to alert their owner, but rather to bark to warn away potential threats. Be specific in your training goals in order to prevent dogs from misunderstanding.
To train your dog to bark when someone is at the door you will need patient volunteers to act as visitors. Ideally, these people will arrive randomly, as well as at set times that you discuss. Talk to the people who already have reason to visit your home and explain that you are training your dog. If you can, tell delivery services to inform their delivery drivers to be patient and wait for the barking to start and stop before expecting the door to open.
Have plenty of good treats and toys on hand to motivate your pup. If your dog doesn’t bark easily, but you know of something she will bark at, it is a good idea to have that on hand. Noise making robots, mirrors, and noise-makers of all kinds are good options.