[Step 1] How To Stop Dogs From Barking At The Door
[Step 1] How To Stop Dogs From Barking At The Door
If you’ve got a dog who you’d like to be calm enough so that you can start to actually get through to him and have him listening and obeying you when guests come over, I’ve put a great video at the bottom of this article that covers an 8 step process that was used on a overly reactive Chihuahua to help stop him from barking at the door.
Its not going to fix all your dog’s barking, because dog’s usually have too many ingrained instincts for this to cure their door barking completely, and if I was being hired to train this dog I would highly recommend that this dog’s owner train these 2 additional guest greeting routines as well.
But I thought it was such a good video that covers the first step for fixing an over-reactive dog’s doorbell barking, that I’ve decided to summarize the process for you.
First… Write A List Of Triggers That Make Your Dog Bark
The dog in the video below is Kiko, and the first step of his training was to list out the triggers that he was over-reacting too.
It’s important to list them all out, so that you can then go about creating individual Counter Conditioning routines for EACH separate trigger your dog has.
Second… Use Counter Conditioning To Reduce Your Dog’s REACTIVENESS
When it came time for fixing Kiko’s reactivity his owner used a process, called “Counter Conditioning”, to reduce how reactive her Chihuahua was to door knocking.
Now if you’re not familiar with Counter Conditioning, it’s a process of SIMULTANEOUSLY rewarding your dog with a high value treat, while you also present your dog the first trigger that you’d like to start fixing. ie. the sound of someone knocking on a door.
The idea (which has been scientifically proven over and over again) is that when you give your dog a high value treat, you are creating an emotional positive reaction in the dog. And IF you simultaneously use a TINY version of your dog’s trigger… usually something much quieter than the REAL trigger… you can literally reprogram your dog to be excited about hearing the new noise.
So in the picture below, Kiko’s owner is knocking on the floor and window sill as she treats her dog, instead of knocking on the real door.
She knows that would be too intense for Kiko, so she works on reprogramming Kiko’s emotions to this ALTERNATIVE style of knocking until she notices that Kiko starts to get excited when he hears the knocking on the floor. It is at this point where the dog is now ready for more intense knocking.
Make sure you also knock on a variety of spaces
Third… Increase the Trigger’s Intensity
Onece your dog is excited with a very low threshold knocking sound AWAY from your door, it’s time to move closer to your front door, and repeat this process. In the picture below, Kiko’s owner has now moved next to her front door and is Counter Conditioning her dog by treating him when he hears the knocking sound while closer to the front door.
While being closer to the front door was initially a littler harder for Kiko, once he was excited about hearing the knocking on the front door, by his owner continuing to simultaneously ‘Knock and Treat’, she then upped the ante for Kiko, by actually knocking on the real door while treating until the sound of knocking on the door had been totally desensitized.
Repeat Process for Your Dog’s Other Triggers
After Kiko had been conditioned to be NEUTRAL about doorbell knocking, his owner repeated the process on Kiko’s next trigger, the SOUND of the doorbell. To do this, she used her phone to record the sound of her SPECIFIC doorbell ringing; this gave her the ability to remotely trigger a doorbell sound at the press of the button.
Then she simply repeated the Counter Conditioning process of ‘Ring & Treat’ just like she did with the door knocking.
TIP: If your dog can’t handle a certain sound, remember that you can always lower the sound of your phone, so that you work with your dog at a threshold level that doesn’t send him over the edge, and then slowly work back into ‘Ringing & Treating’ louder and louder doorbell rings until the dog is excited when he hears the doorbell ring.
Curing The Phone Ringing Trigger
Remember that this Counter Conditioning process can be used on Triggers that set your dog off that aren’t related to guest’s coming over too.
Kiko’s owner also needed to do this process for calming her dog down when her phone rang. Which just like the doorbell, was able to be cured by simply triggering her phone to ring at low volumes while treating, and slowly increasing the volume until Kiko until he was NEUTRAL about the phone too.
The Door Handle Jiggling Trigger
When it came time to fixing Kiko’s reactivity to the jiggling of the door handle, Kiko’s owner did the smart thing and started OUTSIDE.
Starting outside LOWERS the intensity of the door jiggling trigger, because it takes away the mystery element for the dog about what MAY be on the other side of the door. So she simply ‘Jiggle & Treated’ over and over while outside until Kiko was calm when the door handle jiggled.
Once Kiko was calm at the outside door handle jiggle, they moved inside and repeated the process. This was harder for Kiko, by by going slow and staying consistent she got him to where he was emotionally neutral over the door handle jiggle inside as well.
TIP: The door stays closed throughout this whole process. As opening the door would be too intense at this stage.
The Door Opening Trigger:
Once Kiko was calm at the door handle jiggle, his owner repeated the Counter Conditioning process of ‘Opening the door and Treating’ until Kiko was calm.
Reducing “Verbal Greeting” Triggers:
Kiko also had a problem with Verbal Greeting Triggers. If he heard his Mom excitedly greeting people, it was too intense for him. So a very smart move of Kiko’s trainer was to practice greetings around doors that WERE NOT the front door of her home. She recommends using an OVER-EXCITED voice that is MORE intense then she would ever use in a real greeting, so that when she use the voice in a real greeting in the future, its always less intense. Below you can see her practicing with Kiko on the bathroom door.
The Person Entering Trigger:
Only once you have reduced all the other triggers up to this point do you then really up the intensity and Counter Condition your dog to get treated every time a person comes through the door.
Now this is where Kiko started to not do as well, and part of the reason why is because the treat was happening to long AFTER the door was being opened. If I was personally doing this I would have a stranger be inside and treating the dog instead of the person coming through the door, as it could happen faster. I personally use my own children. But even though that was not the case in this video, Kiko’s owner was able to get past this snag in the training by REALLY increasing the frequency of reward and shortening the time frame between when the door was being opened and the treat consumed.
Repeat the process with GUESTS, once your dog is no longer reacting to someone he lives with coming through the door.
Watch the whole process in this video:
Hopefully you can see how using this Counter Conditioning process, you can take a dog who’s way to REACTIVE about guests coming over to your home, and train them to be much more calm.
And while I ABSOLUTELY recommend you use this process if you’ve got an over-reactive dog, as its perfect for helping your dog be more receptive to your commands when guests come over, you need to remember that all this did was change the dog’s REACTION towards guests from NEGATIVE to POSITIVE.
And while this is a GREAT first step, because a dog in a NEGATIVE state can be dangerous, don’t think you’re done yet…
Because when you change your dog’s response to guests to POSITIVE you get a whole new set of fun problems like, jumping up, crotch sniffing, barking from EXCITEMENT etc.
So what we now need to do is teach your dog some Guest Manners. Where we teach him how to POLITELY greet people instead of being too excited when they come over.
Click here for the video on the two Guest Greeting routines everyone should train their dogs.