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How to Train Your Dog to Bark When Someone Is at the Door

How to Train Your Dog to Bark When Someone Is at the Door
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon3-14 Days
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

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.

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Defining Tasks

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.

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Getting Started

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.

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The Teach 'Speak' First Method

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1

Stimulate barking

Use a toy, food item, funny voice, or anything else that you know will stimulate barking in your dog. Dogs often bark when they become frustrated, so dangling a desirable item out of reach is a good way to entice barking.

2

Name and reward

Name the barking with a command word like “speak” and reward enthusiastically. When your dog is rewarded and is quiet, name the quiet behavior with a command word like “quiet”.

3

Practice

Practice until your dog is barking when you ask her to and getting quiet when you ask her to. Practice in a variety of situations and places throughout the house.

4

Introduce visitor

Have a volunteer knock at the door and instruct your dog to bark. Reward her for barking, ask her to be quiet, reward her for being quiet, and open the door. Practice this several times.

5

Move further from door

Go to places throughout your house and have the volunteer knock. Reward your dog for seeking you out and barking.

The Play Dumb Method

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1

Stimulate barking

Sit somewhere near the door and have your volunteer knock. Pretend that you didn’t hear the knock at all. Have your volunteer keep knocking, increasingly loudly, and shouting if necessary, until your dog reacts by barking. Ignore every other response besides barking.

2

Reward jubilantly

As soon as your dog makes a peep, encourage her enthusiastically. If she seems tentative, you can even join in barking with her until she has more confidence.

3

Open the door

Open the door and have your volunteer also reward your dog enthusiastically. Your dog should quiet when she meets the visitor. Name the cessation of barking with a command word like “Quiet”.

4

Move further away

Go further into your house and practice the routine again, waiting until your dog comes and finds you before rewarding the barking.

5

Practice

Keep practicing the routine until your dog is reliably finding you wherever you are and barking to alert you to visitors. Also be careful to reward your dog for quieting on command.

The Model Method

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1

Instinct

Barking to alert the group to a visitor is an instinctual behavior that most dogs need only be reminded of. Watching another dog react appropriately is a great way to teach your dog how to respond.

2

Establish in-group with model dog

Hang out with your reliable barking dog model and your dog for awhile. Encourage natural behavior and play.

3

Introduce visitor

Have your visitor knock. When the model dog barks, reward her enthusiastically and even join in. Keep it up until your dog barks too.

4

Reward and open the door

Reward your dog enthusiastically and open the door. This will tell her that it was her barking that prompted you to open the door and let in the visitor, who should reward both dogs enthusiastically. When your dog is quiet again, name that behavior and reward it.

5

Move further from the door

Practice at various places throughout your house before removing the model dog. By then your dog should have understood the mentality of seeking you out to inform you of a visitor by barking.

By Coral Drake

Published: 12/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Yayo

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Pit bull

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7 Months

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Need help bad don't no any commands

June 24, 2022

Yayo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Bridgette, First, know that what you described is normal for basic obedience, especially at this age - the initial goal is just to teach pup what a word means and motivate them to learn. What comes next is intermediate obedience. For intermediate obedience, you will gradually work up to distractions and pup developing the skills to obey in those situations too - at first the distraction might be someone walking through the room, a squirrel in the yard, a leaf blowing by, ect...Start with less distracting environments, then gradually move onto harder environments and spend intentional time practicing in each of those new environments until pup can focus there too. For example, in your home without others around is easiest, your backyard is a bit harder, your front yard is even harder, your neighborhood is even hard, your home with guests present is even harder, a pet store is even harder, ect...Go out of your way to practice at the current level pup needs to learn at and to create the distractions pup is ready to learn to overcome during training sessions when you can control things - so that pup can also respond when things are more out of your control in every day life, but keep the distraction level what pup is ready for at that point in the training so pup can still succeed with your help - the goal is to guide pup and provide consistent, calm boundaries at this point. Second, it's time to start phasing out treats. First, ask pup to do a command to earn things they want in every day life, like before you open the door for a walk pup wants to go on, tell pup Sit, then wait to open the door until they do - even if you wait for fifteen minutes the first time. If your consistent pup should learn that you mean what you say and start obeying more quickly as you practice. This takes you being more persistent than pup. To practice come, use a long training leash, call pup to come in an environment they like to go explore, then keep the leash tight enough they can't get to what they want, until they finally come. When they come, then give more slack in the leash and let them sniff that bush or say hello if it's safe, as a reward for obeying. When you do use treats, only give a treat for something new your are teaching, for pup practicing something at a harder level than usual, like at a park when they normally just practice at home, for better obedience than normal - like a come where pup ran over right away instead of slowly walked over, or at random intervals, like every third time pup comes. Keep treats hidden in pockets or a treat bag that's tucked under your shirt out of sight and don't show pup the treat until AFTER they have obeyed. If you show pup the treat beforehand in order to get pup to obey at this point in the training, the treat becomes a bride and a dog will learn to only obey if you show the treat first. You want pup to obey not knowing whether they will be rewarded or not, like a surprise. Always praise pup for obedience though. Third, you may need to switch some of your training methods now that pup knows the commands and is sometimes choosing to disobey. For example, when teaching Sit I would first recommend using the Treat Luring method from the article linked below. Once pup knows that method well and has worked up to some distractions, I would enforce my command using the Pressure method from that same article when pup chooses to disobey something they know. The pressure method will still reward some but will also give a gentle consequence for disobedience to encourage pup to obey even when they don't find it as fun. Sit - Pressure method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit Some other methods to help enforce commands when pup is ready: Reel In method for Come: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Turns method for Heel: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel The Leash Pressure method for down: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Finally, check out the Consistency and the Working method from the article I have linked below. You can use everyday things pup wants as motivators to get pup to obey, such as telling pup to Sit before giving breakfast and waiting until they do so before putting the food down. Often you will have to wait pup out pretty long the first time, fifteen minutes being normal. Repeat your command just once every five minutes. When pup finally complies, give the food and praise calmly. As pup sees that you are consistent, calm, and firm, pup should start to obey more quickly as you practice. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you A drag leash can also be kept on pup when you are home to supervise, to ensure it doesn't get caught on things. When you give pup a command like Leave It, Place, Off, Come, Out, ect...You can calmly pick up the end of the leash and help pup follow through with your command, like walking pup over to where you called them from originally, showing pup that you mean what you say and they need to follow through without having to get angry or let pup get away with ignoring you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 24, 2022

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Scotch

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Dashalier

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8 Months

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How do I get my dog to not do this?

Jan. 19, 2021

Scotch's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! This behavior is actually fairly simple to correct, although the process is tedious. You will be slowly desensitizing him to the sound of the doorbell. Practice having someone ring the doorbell and as soon as the bell rings, you ask him to sit. Once he sits, give him a treat. Practice this with him on leash, and you may have to show him the treats before you start with the doorbell so he is a little more focused on you. But you will practice this on repeat until he completely stops responding to the doorbell. It could take up to about a month of consistent daily practice to correct this. And you very well may have to wait a good 5 minutes for him to calm down the first few times and that is ok and normal. Once he really understands that the calm behavior is what you are after, it will start to click.

Jan. 19, 2021


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