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Train Your Dog Not to Bark at the Door by Jules Nye

Living with a reactive dog, I understand how frustrating it can be to have a dog charge the front door. I also understood it was very difficult to train my dog to not bark and run to the door. So, I decided to create an alternate behavior.

At first my dog would hear the doorbell and run to the door barking like a wild man. Once he got to the door there was more barking, jumping and scratching the door. The stress didn't help either my dog or the person trying to enter my house feel better about coming in.

Here is what I did:

  1. I hid down the hallway with my clicker and had a friend of mine be the bait at the door with clear instructions of what to do (ignore the dog, look at a certain spot, and the reality that it could take two minutes to twenty minutes, etc. Alternatively there are battery operated doorbells that you could set up so that you could ring it yourself).
  2. She knocked on the door and Juno began to bark. I waited and waited for about 17 minutes until he turned around and looked at me and then I clicked my clicker and immediately I squatted down and showed him I had a treat (attempting to also cause him to retreat away from the door in order to get the treat). At first I was only about 6 feet away from the door. He took the treat and went right back to the door to bark but quickly within three minutes looked at me again. CLICK! and showed him I had a treat. He went back to the door and gave only about five barks then turned and looked at me again. CLICK! After the I had him not caring about the door and looking at me, my friend left and went out of sight.
  3. After I knew she was out of sight I stood up, and Juno ran back to the door barked twice then realized no one was there.
  4. About five minutes later we did this again. This took about a week of daily practice but I had him turning around to find me by the end of one week.
  5. When he started to find me right away after a knock, I began to increase the distance between myself and the front door, until I was all the way down the hallway. This was done by ping-ponging how far I was from him. I didn't want Juno to feel as if things only got harder and harder and I went farther and farther away. That could have created a panic and had the whole behavior plan collapse. So I made sure to go six feet, then ten feet, then eight feet, then six feet, then twelve feet, etc.
  6. The next step was to have Juno find me out of sight when there was a knock at the door or the doorbell rang. First by me being down the hallway and him seeing me, CLICK! Then duck just around the corner. He came running to find me and jackpot (lots of treats!). We practiced this a lot with varying how far around the corner I went. Sometimes I could click for speed of running to me, sometimes I would click the second he looked at me, and sometimes I would click when he got to me. The final behavior chain was: knock/doorbell, he would bark, run to the door, run to find me, and when he found me I clicked and treated him.

Training plans have to be realistic and you have to work with what you are dealt. If you have a dog who is barking at the door, it's pretty difficult to try and stop all barking. And the nice thing is there are always several options. You could have your dog find you, but you could also train your dog to go into his crate, or onto a bed, or to a specific target, or out the dog door. Use what your dog wants as a reward. For Juno, it was being near me. Once this was trained and maintained, this gave me a better management solution to let people into the house.

The Treat & Train machine is also a nice way to work on this and the instructions that come with it give details on how to train your dog to go to his mat when the doorbell rings or someone knocks at the door.

~ Jules

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