Front door misbehavior
Do you know why you can’t tell a knock-knock joke to a dog?
You: Knock knock.
Your dog: Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark.
Which is a good lead-in to this topic - undesirable front door behavior. Does canine chaos and commotion ensue when somebody knocks at your front door?
You’re not alone; barking at the front door is a common (and natural) canine behavior. Think about it from your dog’s point of view. The knock could indicate that a favorite human is coming to visit. The UPS man could be leaving a box from chewy.com or better yet, perhaps pizza is being delivered for dinner!
There are many ways to address bad front door behavior – management, training or a combination of the two.
If you don’t have frequent visitors – or if you simply don’t have time to train - management may be the way to go.
- Give your dog a chew stick or favorite toy to hold in his mouth. This simple solution works more often than you might think.
- Have a treat-dispensing toy ready to go or grab a handful of your dog’s food and scatter it across your kitchen floor. This will keep your dog busy (hunting for food) while you deal with the front door.
Combination of management and training
If your dog knows the sit cue, keep a short leash at the front door. When a visitor arrives, leash your dog and have him sit as you let your visitor in. (Most dogs will stop barking when they sit.)
My favorite solution to this problem is what I call “party in the kitchen” though any room that can be closed off works.
- Decide on a cue to use; for this example, I’ll use “party time.”
- Let your dog see you grab a favorite chew item such as a bully stick or stuffed Kong.
- Yell “party time” and run (to invoke the chase instinct) towards your party room.
- Enter the room and once your dog follows, close the door and give him the chew item. Initially stay in the room with your dog. Practice this over and over until your dog races to beat you to the room when you yell “party time.”
- Now do this again but instead of staying in the room with your dog, leave the room and close the door. Initially, just leave your dog alone for a minute but then slowly increase the time until your dog is comfortable being left for several minutes.
- Now add the trigger – ring the doorbell. (You may need somebody to help you at this point.) The moment the doorbell rings, yell “party time,” run to the party room, give your dog the chew and close the door.
- With enough practice, the dog will start to head for the room on his own once he hears the doorbell and/or “party time” cue.
Once the delivery has been made or your visitor is settled in, you can release your dog from the party room – that is, if he wants to!
“Place” training (teaching your dog to go to a bed or mat and stay) is a useful cue for numerous scenarios including front door misbehavior. Your dog should know the “down” and “stay” cues before teaching “place.”
- Select a mat or bed that will be your dog’s “place.”
- Place the mat in an area with low traffic and few distractions.
- Lure your dog over to the mat (by pointing to it or using a treat) while saying the cue “go to your place.” Ask your dog to down and stay and reward with a treat.
- Practice and repeat until your dog walks over to his “place” and lies down when you give the cue with minimal luring.
- Begin moving the mat closer and closer to the front door.
- Now comes the tricky part; getting the dog to stay when the door is opened.
- Initially just take a few steps towards the door, return to the dog and reward. Keep practicing this until you can walk to the door and back without the dog leaving his “place.”
- Next, touch the doorknob and return to your dog and reward if he stays.
- Then open the door just an inch, close the door, return to your dog and reward for staying. Gradually work towards being able to open the door all the way with the dog remaining in place. (Be sure to praise/reward for each success.)
- Eventually add ringing the doorbell.
- Then add an actual visitor standing at the door.
- Next have the visitor enter – a step at a time - and work on the dog remaining in place. Ask your visitor to avoid making eye contact with the dog; this will help the dog succeed.
Don’t rush the process; take it one step at a time. If your dog has difficulty at any step in the process, you may be moving too fast. Go back a step and try again.
Search YouTube for “front door behavior solving a training problem with antecedent arrangement” to see what this process looks like.