How to train your dog for visitors

by Jenna Kiddie

Train Over Excited Dogs for Visitors

Why do dogs bark at the doorbell?

Lots of dogs get nervous, excited (or both!) when they hear the sound of the door but this can make welcoming guests into your home difficult and chaotic.  By following these easy training steps early on when you get your new dog, having visitors to the house can be far less stressful for the whole family.

Ultimately you want to teach your dog to run to their bed when they hear a knock at the door or the doorbell and wait there until your visitors are settled. This training can be broken down into 2 stages: First, teaching them that the knock doesn’t predict someone coming to the door, and then when they no longer react to the sound you can teach them to go to their bed when they hear the knock.

Whilst you are doing this training it would be a good idea to put up a sign on your door asking people not to knock but to phone instead so that ‘real’ guests don’t disrupt your training. If you have a doorbell you will need to do the exact same process with the sound of the bell instead of knocking.

How to stop your dog barking at the door

Teach your dog that the knock is meaningless:

  • Knock on surfaces at home and ignore your dog’s response.

  • Start very quietly, if your dog shows a reaction (barking, rushing to the door etc), make it even quieter.

  • Gradually increase the volume until your dog is ignoring reasonably loud knocks.

  • Ask a helper to go outside and approach the front door to knock while you stay inside with your dog. Completely ignore your dog and the knocking. Start with just one quiet knock and as your dog stops responding increase the volume/number of knocks. Once your dog is totally ignoring this you can move on to teaching them how they should respond when someone visits…

 Keeping your dog calm when visitors arrive

  • Set up a training sessions with one person approaching and knocking the door whilst you train your dog, spend around 10-15 minutes on one session.

  • Have the helper approach and knock the door, then encourage your dog to run to their bed with you, in a room of your choice. When you get there reward them with a couple of treats. Repeat the whole process several times in one session. Ideally the bed will be in a room that visitors wouldn’t normally go to, so that they can learn to wait there until they are let in to meet people if appropriate.

  • Over a number of sessions your dog will start to respond to the knock by running to their bed with you. You should encourage them to lead the way, turn it into a race to get there first – it needs to be as fun as possible! When they get there spend some time giving a fuss and treats.

  • The more you practice the better they will become – eventually they will run to bed all by themselves and wait for you to bring a treat. When you get to this stage start to give a longer lasting treat such as a stuffed Kong, you can now introduce short periods of closing the door so that they are left alone to enjoy their treat.

  • You can now try with a real visitor, shut your dog in their room with their long lasting treat whilst you invite your visitor in and settle them down. If your dog is calm and your visitors want to meet them you can then let them in to meet your visitor if it is safe to do so. You can now use this as your routine every time you have visitors (and take the note off your door!).

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