How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking at Visitors

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Does your pooch bark at every visitor who walks in your door? He does this for several reasons, based on the fact he is territorial. He barks to let you know there are intruders in his territory. In essence, your pup is quite sure in his mind that barking like this is his job and he is proud of being able to do it well. Okay, so although barking is a natural behavior in your pup, there are times when this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. One thing worth knowing is that if your dog thinks you are ignoring him, he may get frustrated and bark even more. The good news is that with a little time, effort, and patience, you can train him not to bark every time a visitor comes to the door. 

Defining Tasks

The command you decide to use is up to you, but keep it simple. Use something along the lines of "Quiet" or "Hush". Whatever you choose, keep it simple and use the same command each time, otherwise, you might confuse your dog. In reality, what you want your dog to do when someone comes to the door is to behave and remain quiet. The hard part is that this behavior goes against his nature, so it will take a lot of patience and practice to get him to the point where he completely ignores the doorbell or when anyone knocks on the door.

This is an important behavior that can be taught to any dog who is old enough to have mastered the basic commands. It can take several weeks for your pup to master this behavior, but if you are willing to train him on a daily basis, you can speed up the process. 

Getting Started

There aren't many things you will need to perform this type of training. These are a few:

  • Treats: To reward him when he gets it right.
  • Clicker: If you have been using one for his other training.
  • Time: At least one training session daily.
  • Patience: Training your dog to stop barking at visitors requires a lot of patience.
  • A quiet place: You need a quiet place to train your pup without any distractions.
  • At least one visitor: In most forms of training, you will need at least one visitor to knock on your door or ring your doorbell.

The Hush Method

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Effective
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Step
1
Start with a treat
Find a treat your dog simply cannot resist, think pieces of cheese, doggy treats, liverwurst, anything your dog absolutely loves. The idea is not to fill up his stomach, but to reward him for getting it right.
Step
2
Grab a neighbor
Get a neighbor to volunteer as an assistant, and have them stand outside your front door ready to knock or ring the bell when you give your pup the 'speak' command. Give the command and if your pup doesn't bark, have your neighbor wait 2 seconds and then knock or ring.
Step
3
If he barks
At the very moment your pup barks, tell him "Yes" and give him a treat. Of course, if he barks before your neighbor rings or knocks, you can do the same thing.
Step
4
Repeat the training
Wait for a little while and repeat the above exercise. Each time the bell rings or your neighbor knocks and your dog barks, say "Yes" and give him a treat.
Step
5
'Hush'
Now when he speaks, use the 'hush' command while at the same time offering him a treat. Your dog cannot bark, sniff, and eat at the same time, so when he hushes to investigate, let him have the treat and praise him.
Step
6
Continue training
Continue this training until your dog fully understands what the command 'hush' means and that he is to do so unless you give him permission to speak. Be patient, it will take time and patience to make this happen.
Recommend training method?

The Pretend You Can't Hear Method

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Step
1
Grab some help
Grab a family member or neighbor who can devote an hour a day to helping you train your dog for up to a few weeks. You may need to line up several people to help ensure you have the training coverage you need.
Step
2
Ring my bell, ring my bell
Have the neighbor or family member stand outside the front door and ring the bell or knock on it.
Step
3
Pretend you can't hear
Your dog should look to you for guidance. When he does, simply pretend you can't hear it. If he starts to bark at the noise, ignore him too. If he ignores the bell too, give him a treat and praise him.
Step
4
If he barks
If your pup barks at the doorbell or knock on the door, continue to ignore him.
Step
5
Repeat this process
Keep doing this on a daily basis for at least two weeks or until your pup no longer barks when someone comes to the door. Just remember to give him a treat every time he doesn't bark at the doorbell or knock. In time, he will learn to completely ignore the noise.
Recommend training method?

The Designated Spot Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Choose a "go to" spot
Choose a "go to" spot where your pup will be required to go when the doorbell rings or someone knocks on the door. This can be his bed, a specific spot on the carpet, or another room. No matter what you choose, stick to one spot in order to avoid confusion.
Step
2
Take him to his spot
Using a leash, give your dog the command you have chosen to make him go to his spot. Most owners use something along the lines of "go to X" where X represents the place. When he goes there, give him the 'stay' command and a treat.
Step
3
Ring the bell
Have a neighbor or a friend ring the bell. A single bark or two is okay, but your dog should stay on his spot when you tell him to. If he does, be sure to praise him and reward him.
Step
4
Up the stakes
Repeat this process using several people ringing the bell or knocking on the door. If you really want to up the stakes, have them ring the bell several times and then open the door. If he stays in his spot, reward him with a treat and praise.
Step
5
The final test
As a final test, stand next to your door, try having a conversation with an invisible person on the other side of your door or, better yet, with a real person. If your dog remains in his "go to" spot, be sure to reward him with lots of praise and plenty of treats, if not, go back and repeat the training until he no longer barks at the doorbell or knock, but instead goes directly to his spot and stays there quietly.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Coco
Retriever
5 Years
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Question
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Coco
Retriever
5 Years

Coco barks continuously from the moment a visitor comes home until they leave. We have tried every method possible. But nothing works with her.
She will eat her treat n immediately start barking. Neither does she want to meet the visitor nor will she go away from where they are.
Even if we put her in the bedroom which is her favorite part of the house, she goes under the bed and keeps howling.
We badly need help with this issue.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chitra, You may need to work on desensitizing her to the things she associates with visitors first - once the actual visitor is there she may already be too worked up to respond. Check out this video on that topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA You may also need to use an interrupter in your training, such as low level stimulation with a remote training collar, combined with rewards for quietness and desensitizing pup to someone's arrival ahead of time, repeating the desensitizing over and over and over again until pup gets bored enough to respond calmly during the arrival. In this case, if the method in the video above isn't effective by itself, I would say hire a professional trainer who has experience with desensitization and counter conditioning through reward based training, this type of excessive barking and reactivity toward people, and the proper use of interrupters in training. I don't recommend using an interrupter just yet though, I would take your time with the positive reinforcement method above, since I suspect this is fear based and related to pup being overly sensitized to new people, which usually needs more of a counter conditioning approach. If you use any sort of punisher incorrectly you could make things worse, so if that does need to be used to simply create an opening to be able to teach pup another response, I would have a professional help with that in person. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Remi
Collie
4 Months
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Remi
Collie
4 Months

I just adopted her 3 days ago and she always barks at people and dogs when we go on walks. And when family is here ( mom, brother) she growls and barks at them. I am also a new dog owner so please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Haley, It sounds like she is suspicious due to a lack of socialization. Check out the video series I have linked below on counter conditioning to build confidence and teach quietness. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Alfie
Cocker Spaniel
1 Year
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Question
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Alfie
Cocker Spaniel
1 Year

I am a dog groomer and take him to work with me, he sits in the next room which is separated with a stair gate. Every time a customer comes in he doesn’t stop barking until they have left.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ellie, I recommend working on the Quiet method and Desensitize method from the article I have linked below, and the training on desensitizing from the video I have linked below. I would recruit friends and family to come to your work place when it's closed for training practice so customers aren't disturbed. Quiet and Desensitize method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Barking video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA&list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a&index=6&t=32s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Calvin
German Shepherd
3 Years
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Question
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Calvin
German Shepherd
3 Years

We adopted our dog as a rescue approximately 6 months ago. Our best guess is that he is a German shepherd australian cattle dog mix, so he has a stature of the cattle dog about 45lbs. Once he got comfortable at home within 3 months of having him, he would bark at visitors but it was more of a normal dog barking alert. Now when we have visitors, pizza delivery guy, maintenance, etc, he barks and even snarls through the window. He’s actually a very mellow dog and is wonderful around strangers, babies, kids, and anyone he meets, so we are kind of shocked by this sudden aggressive barking. Typically once he meets the person, he just sits down at their feet and lets them pet him. But the way he has been barking as of recently, I think most people would be scared to meet him. We haven’t tried anything we’ve read online, but I am sure it’s something we have to change about ourselves here at home. He is food and affection motivated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Allison, If pup isn't normally aggressive toward people and only acts that way when they approach your home, which is what it sounds like, I recommend desensitizing him to people approaching the door. Check out the video channel linked below for examples of desensitizing a dog to various things. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a If pup isn't normally aggressive, then recruit friends pup doesn't know to walk past your door from a distance. Keep the distance far enough that pup doesn't react to the person from the window. Reward pup for calmness and ignoring the person. Make sure pup cannot get out of the home while practicing this though for the safety of the friend. Have the person repeatedly pass the your home and reward pup for every calm response, and interrupt pup if they start to tense up or fixate on the person - before they react badly. As pup becomes more and more relaxed and happy about the person passing by, have the person pass by at closer distances. Work up to the person coming within 10 feet of the front door gradually - going at a training pace pup can stay calm at (this will probably be done over the course of several training sessions with the same person). When the person can walk past within 10 feet of the door and pup stay calm, have the person go further away and walk toward the door head on (like they are going to come up to your door, instead of passing by like they are going for a walk) but then turn and not go all the way to the door before they get there. Start with them turning before getting to the door sooner, so they are further away still. As pup improves, have the person approach the door closer before turning, until they can eventually come all the way up to the door and pup stays calm. When they can approach the door and pup stay calm and happy, practice having them knock on the door and doing the Quiet method from the article I have linked below. Rewarding pup for calmness and quietness - practice this with a basket muzzle on pup if pup could react aggressively before they have interacted with the person and potentially bite initially. Introduce the muzzle ahead of time if it's needed. Practice this until pup will consistently stay relaxed and happy when the person approaches and knocks (not just stiff and silent though - like pup is waiting to explode - you want a relaxed happy looking body). Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark When pup does well with the first person at each training session, then recruit a different friend to practice the same thing, starting from the beginning again, until pup gets to the point where they are relaxed and happy about that person approaching too. Repeat this with a dozen people ideally - even more is better. Once pup is happy about people approaching, when strangers approach, like delivery people, toss pup a treat when the person approaches while pup is still calm, and keep your attitude happy and confident about the situation, so pup won't view the person as a threat. When people come into your home - practice having pup stay on Place using a back tie leash for added safety, not allowing pup to say hi until they are completely calm - reward pup for calm behavior only. Once pup can be calm around the guests, have guests calmly toss a treat over to pup too so pup anticipates behaving calmly and guests doing fun but calm things. I would also work on pup's overall respect and trust for you by following the article linked below. Making sure there is a good foundation or trust and respect can help pup take cues from your response to people arriving, and listen to you commands, instead of feeling the need to guard the property as strongly himself. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you If pup is aggressive around people in other scenarios too, you will need to hire a professional trainer to help you with this in person for a more intensive training program, tailored to pup, with sufficient safety measure in place to avoid possible bites. Look for someone who specializes in behavior issues and comes well recommended by their previous clients. Ideally the person would also work with a team of trainers so that there are multiple new people to practice the training with pup with. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Veer
Golden Retriever
12 Months
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Question
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Veer
Golden Retriever
12 Months

Whenever any guests come over, he doesn’t stop barking and become extremely restless and also tries to pound on them. How to control that behaviour of my dog?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello there. It sounds like you have your hands full. I am going to provide you with information on how to correct this behavior. You won’t be able to solve your dog’s overprotective behavior in one day. In the meantime, you don’t want to put your life on hold. You can still invite guests into your home as long as you prioritize managing your dog’s behavior. You’ll need a short-term strategy to start showing your overprotective dog what behavior is unacceptable while also keeping your guests safe. There are a few ways to do this. Leash: Keeping your dog on a leash while friends are visiting gives you control over your dog’s actions. Leash him up before the doorbell rings and keep him close as you greet your guests. During the visit, you can let the leash drag and only use it if you have to. Muzzle: If you feel his behavior warrants the use of a muzzle for the time being while you work on solving this problem, then it may be a wise choice. Separate Room: Your dog won’t get better without practice, but sometimes you have to weigh the risks versus rewards. If your overprotective dog is in the beginning stages of training, keeping him separated from guests might be best. You don’t want to put a friend’s safety at risk or needlessly stress out your dog. As long as you keep working toward stopping the behavior, separating an overprotective dog from company is a temporary management solution. Start Obedience Training Obedience training is a must for every dog, and it’s especially important for overprotective dogs. Working with your dog on things like “sit-stay,” “down-stay,” and “heel,” will help build his impulse control. He’ll start seeing you as a capable leader and will turn to you for guidance. A mistake many pup parents make is stopping obedience training once their dog masters the basics skills. Being well-trained is about more than knowing how to sit when a person holds a treat in front of their face. It’s a lifetime lesson, and even senior dogs need regular training. Commit to training your dog several times a day for short periods of time. Make Your Dog Work for Affection You can’t help but smother your dog with love every time he’s within petting distance, but that isn’t always what’s best for him. He will start to feel entitled to your attention, and that’s part of the problem. To remedy this, initiate a “work for it” program that allows you to show your dog affection as long as he earns your attention in appropriate ways. Make him sit, stay calm, and do whatever else you ask before doling out whatever it is he wants. If he’s excited for dinner, make him sit and leave it before digging in. If he wants in your lap, ask him to do a trick first. Never give your dog attention if he rudely nudges your hand or barks in your face. He needs to know polite behavior, and polite behavior only, is how he gets what he wants. You ignore everything else. Involve Other People in the Dog’s Life Most overprotective dogs choose to guard only the person they feel closest to. It’s usually the same person who fills their food bowls, takes them on walks, and handles training. They become obsessively attached, and a strong bond gradually mutates into overprotective behavior. Putting some space between you and your dog will help him learn to trust other people. Enlist the entire family’s help and take a step back in your role as primary caregiver. Have someone else feed the dog a few times a week, and encourage other people to engage her in playtime. This will help him be more comfortable with different people. Socialize Socialization is best done during the puppy stages, but even adult and senior dogs benefit from new experiences. Exposing your overprotective dog to new places, experiences, and people, will help him learn that not everyone is out to hurt you. Make sure each new experience is positive, and encourage your dog without forcing him to interact. If your dog is afraid, you don’t want to make things worse. Take socialization at the pace he’s comfortable with. If he seems overwhelmed, back up and try something a little smaller. These are some general ideas and they can be modified to fit your dynamic. These behaviors do take time, I am talking months, to correct. And sometimes the behaviors get worse before they get better. So just push through that time if that starts to happen.

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