The Savvy Trainer | Who’s at the door? Who’s at the door?
June 10, 2014
The house is finally quiet. The dishes are washed and the kids are doing their homework.
At last a moment to relax then out of the blue, "ding dong!" the doorbell rings. Chaos ensues as the dog charges the door barking and jumping.
You yell "Quiet!" while trying to push him aside to clear a path to the door. Now the kids are up, the cats have run under the bed and all sense of peace is gone.
There is something about the sound of a doorbell that makes dogs go crazy, but the type of crazy varies greatly.
Protective breeds feel the need to warn all potential intruders to "go away or else," while social butterflies can't wait to see who has come to play with them. Fearful dogs just want the visitor to leave so they won't have to deal with the scary situation, and herding breeds feel the need to assess the intruder and put them in their place.
There are many potential solutions to the doorbell problem, but one of the easiest is to teach your dog the sound of a doorbell is a cue to do something.
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A cue is anything that gives the dog information about what you want them to do. It can be a word, hand gesture or sound. Teaching a dog that the "ding dong" of the doorbell means "run to your bed and get a treat" is a straight forward process.
TREATS WILL FOLLOW
Start by teaching Bubba the sound of the doorbell predicts a treat will follow.
Place him on a leash and have someone ring the doorbell. Immediately give him a treat. Do this exercise two times per day for about five minutes. You are creating a Conditioned Emotional Response (CER), meaning the dog will experience a good emotion at the sound of the doorbell because it equals wonderful treats.
Next, work off leash and position yourself a short distance from him. Ring the doorbell. Now Bubba has to move toward you to get the treat.
Gradually increase the distance he has to move toward you for the treat. When he will move toward you from anywhere in the room, add a "sit" cue before rewarding. This step ensures that Bubba will run up to you and automatically sit when he hears the doorbell.
The final step is to continue adding distance by working with him in a different room. He should learn to run and find you from anywhere in the house when he hears the doorbell.
The sound of the doorbell can create considerable anxiety in our canine friends.
Teaching your dog the doorbell results in great rewards eliminates a behavior that is very frustrating for you, scary for your visitors and unhealthy for your dog. It's a win-win!
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.