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Why Dogs Bark At The Door And What To Do About It

Do your dogs bark at the door? Ours do. They go crazy at the sound of a knock and even when a neighbor walks the apartment halls or enters their own home. It's become quite the problem, so we wanted to know why dogs bark at the door and what to do about it.

Why Do Dogs Bark At The Door?

There are a few reasons why a dog might bark at the door. No matter the emotions behind the behavior, the reason your dog barks at the sound of a knock or doorbell is because of a learned association. Basically, they learn to associate that sound with someone approaching or entering your home. Some motivations behind the behavior include:

  • To protect their home and territory from intruders
  • Excitement for guests
  • Fear or being startled

To identify the motivation behind your dog's door barking, you'll want to observe their body language. Generally speaking, protective dogs will take an alert stance, continually watch the door and bark, raise their tail and perk their ears forward, run back and forth, and sometimes whine. Excited dogs will wag their tails or whole bodies, run back and forth between you and the door, pant between barks and be more relaxed or playful. Fearful dogs show signs of stress such as pinned or pulled back ears, tail in a low position or tucked between legs, lowered head, shaking and pacing.

What To Do When Your Dog Barks At The Door

There are a few things you can do when your dog starts barking at the door:

  1. Avoid yelling - yelling will encourage your dog to bark more because they often interpret our loud noises as joining in on the barking.
  2. Stay calm and relaxed - dogs read and play off our emotions and demeanor, so keeping calm can help your dog understand there's no threat.
  3. Ignore them - if your dog is barking to get your attention, ignoring their behavior can encourage them to settle down.
  4. Train your dog - use it as an opportunity to train your dog not to bark at the door. Just make sure to be consistent and train them every time.

How To Prevent Door Barking: Short-Term Solutions

Training is the most effective way to curb your dog's door barking but it will take time, patience and consistency. That being said, there are a few shorter-term options to potentially reduce the behavior:

Short-Term Solution #1: Meet Guests Before They Reach Your Door

For those times when you're expecting a guest or two, you can try to meet and greet them before they reach your door. For instance, you can greet Halloween trick-or-treaters on your porch or at the street (or leave candy out there). You can put up a sign or buy a doormat that instructs people not to knock (a good option for dogs who bark at mail and package deliverers). You can also advise guests to skip knocking or ringing the doorbell and enter right in to your home as well as meet them in your driveway, at the street or on your porch to walk them in.

Pro Tip: This method works best when you can keep your dog in their crate or a room that find comfortable.

Short-Term Solution #2: Remove Access To The Trigger

Another option, though somewhat more difficult, is to remove access to the trigger. So if your dog barks at the door because they see people walking by or approaching, remove their sight lines. You can hang curtains and blinds or keep them in a room away from the front door.

Short-Term Solution #3: Exercise Your Dog

Sometimes, a little exercise is enough to calm your dog's door dashing and barking because it tires them out. The amount of exercise needed will depend on the breed. Larger and more excitable dogs may need long walks, high-exertion playtime (such as fetch or chase) and involved puzzle toys or brain games. Smaller, low-maintenance and brachycephalic breeds need shorter walks, less intense playtime or moderate puzzle toys and brain games.

How To Prevent Door Barking: Long-Term Solutions

Though short-term solutions can work well, they are not the most viable option for door barkers. If you truly want to train your dog not to bark at the door, you'll want to opt for more long-term solutions. These four options require consistency, which means frequent training sessions with every person in the household following the guidelines as well:

Long-Term Solution #1: Desensitization

Desensitization involves familiarizing your dog with the sounds of knocking or doorbell ringing so they care less about it. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Play a recording of knocking or doorbells (the trigger for your dog). Begin on a low volume.
  2. Once your dog stops barking and stays quiet for around 5 seconds, reward them with treats.
  3. Gradually turn up the volume of the recording, repeating step #2 with each increase.
  4. Do this consistently (daily will work best) to help the training stick.
Long-Term Solution #2: Teach A "Quiet" Command

Teaching your dog to be quiet on command can be very useful for a dog who likes to bark at the door.

  1. Choose the command you will use ("quiet," "settle," "relax," etc.).
  2. When your dog starts barking, give them your quiet command.
  3. Once they stop barking, provide them with treats and praise so they begin to associate being quiet with getting a reward.
  4. Repeat this consistently (daily will work best) to help the training stick.
Long-Term Solution #3: Use The "Sit" Command

Asking your dog to sit when they bark at the door is a relatively easy solution for curbing the behavior. This is because it not only challenges your dog to do a task incompatible with barking, but it's likely one they already know how to do.

  1. Make sure your dog knows to sit on command. If they do, you're already ahead for this method.
  2. When your dog barks at the door, ask them to sit.
  3. Reward only when they calmly sit and cease barking.
  4. If your dog barks, let them smell the treat in your hand but don’t give it. Instead, redirect their attention back to you by asking them to sit again.
  5. Repeat these steps, only providing a reward when they sit calmly without barking.
  6. Do this consistently (daily will work best) to help the training stick.
Long-Term Solution #4: Direct Them To A Specified Place

This technique involves teaching your dog to go to a specific place when someone knocks or rings the doorbell.

  1. Choose the specified place and command. This could be their dog bed, a specific area rug, the bedroom, or any other area in your home. We use "place" for our pups' dog beds and "bed" for our main bedroom, but you can pick any word that doesn't overlap with another command.
  2. First you'll need to teach your dog to go to that spot. Do so by standing there with your dog, saying the command and dispensing treats.
  3. Gradually move farther from the spot while giving your dog the command.
  4. When they go to the specified place, reward them with treats.
  5. Once your dog can go to the place on cue, begin giving the command when someone knocks or rings your doorbell.
  6. When they go to their place, reward them with treats but only if they don't bark.
  7. Repeat this consistently (daily will work best) to help the training stick.
Long-Term Solution #6: Direct Them To A "Get A Toy"

This method also involves your dog doing something that is incompatible with barking.

  1. Teach your dog a "get a toy" command. Do so by giving the cue, handing your dog a toy and rewarding with treats.
  2. Begin placing the toy next to your dog and giving the command, rewarding when they grab the toy.
  3. Move the toy farther and farther, continuing to reward when they successfully retrieve a toy.
  4. Once your dog can do this on command, begin giving the command when someone knocks or rings your doorbell.
  5. When they grab a toy, reward them with treats but only if they don't bark.
  6. Repeat this consistently (daily will work best) to help the training stick.

Pro Tip: There's an added benefit of using a toy command - your dog won't be able to bark easily because their mouth will be occupied. 

Long-Term Solution #7: Ignore Them

This technique is pretty simple and can be quite effective. It involves ignoring undesirable behaviors, such as problematic barking, and rewarding the desired behavior.

  1. When your dog begins barking at the door, ignore them. You can either stay in the room, sitting quietly or turning your back to them, or you can leave the room all together (they may follow you, but continue ignoring). Make sure not to talk to them or ask them to stop, touch them or even look at them. Any attention you give them can be interpreted by your dog as a form of reward for barking.
  2. Once they stop barking and turn toward you, give them treats and praise as quickly as possible. Timing is important to make sure you associate the quiet with reward. This will help teach them that barking gets them no attention, while stopping barking gets rewarded.
  3. Repeat the process until your dog has learned not to bark at the door. Be patient because when you break your ignoring action, it can encourage your dog to keep barking.
  4. Do this consistently (daily will work best) to help the training stick.

Pro Tip: With this particular technique, make sure not to let any guests in until your dog has stopped barking.


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