Teach your dog to remain quiet, or to bark just a little, when someone knocks or rings your bell.
Welcome to The Dog Trainer’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Teaching and Caring for Your Pet. This is your host, Jolanta Benal.
The subject of barking is probably good for a dozen podcasts; today’s topic will be that perennial favorite, dog and doorbell. Knocking and intercom buzzers count, too, but to keep things simple I’ll just speak of doorbells.
So Your Dog Doesn’t Bark? Keep It That Way
First, let me address the lucky people whose dog doesn’t bark when the doorbell rings. A high proportion of you have a young puppy, or else a dog you adopted within the past couple of weeks. Many a puppy offers that first tentative doorbell bark in early adolescence. And dogs in new surroundings often seem to take a while to settle in before they bring out their whole repertoire of behaviors. The trainer’s trick here is simple: notice quiet “nonbehavior,” and don’t take it for granted. If the doorbell rings and your puppy or dog remains quiet, praise her and slip her a treat. Keeping your voice soft and slow helps maintain a calm atmosphere. The idea is to counter excitement about the sudden noise and/or the imminent guest. Treats reward your dog’s quiet response to the bell, of course, but they have another function too. If the sound of the doorbell consistently predicts treats, your dog will come to like the sound. That emotional association is a building block of friendliness to guests.
Teaching Your Dog to Hush If He Already Barks
If your dog already barks at the doorbell, your options depend on the behavior’s intensity. Many dogs respond well to what the great trainer Pat Miller (www.peaceablepaws.com) calls a “positive interrupt.” “Positive,” because the interruptor is expressly not a shaker can, a harsh shout, or an electric shock. The idea here is not to scare or hurt your dog, only to distract her from barking. Then you can reward whatever she does instead. Here are two ways to use a positive interrupt for barking. Get ready with delicious treats before trying either one. You’ll need to reward your dog’s quiet instantly, before she has a chance to start barking again.