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Your Happy Pet: Doorbells and Barking Dogs

Original Publication Date: July 14, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Some dogs ignore a ringing doorbell. They accept it as just another odd human noise. The same ding-dong can set other dogs into a barking frenzy. There are some pet parents who view the dog as an alarm system and welcome being alerted when someone is approaching.

Many, however, would prefer their dog to remain quiet and composed when the doorbell sounds. Before training a dog not to bark at the doorbell, it is important to understand why your pet barks in the first place.

When the doorbell rings, you probably drop everything and exude some degree of excitement as you bustle to greet the caller. Your dog senses this and with wagging tail joins you to greet the visitor who often rewards the dog with a pet. The attention sends positive reinforcement to the pup that he or she has done a good thing.

Other dogs love their humans and their home and may view an unknown person at the door as an intruder. A dog who feels threatened will demonstrate an aggressive posture with his or her ears forward and his or her tail held high as he or she barks. Take note if your dog reacts in a protective manner.

Some dogs are timid and may be frightened by the unexpected noise of a doorbell. A frightened dog will hold his or her ears back toward his or her head and tuck his or her tail between his or her legs. He or she, too, can learn not to bark at the doorbell but needs special understanding as you train.

Determining why your dog barks at doorbells is the first step. Next, decide what you want the dog to do. Do you want your dog to stop barking when the doorbell rings, or do you want your dog to also sit? In either case, you must train the dog to associate the doorbell with a pleasant reward or treat if he or she does not bark.

Get your dog used to hearing a recording of your doorbell or ring it yourself. The dog should hear the noise several times a day. Your dog should learn that you do not always go to the door to greet a guest when the doorbell rings. Be sure to reward him or her with a favorite high-quality treat every time you play the sound and he or she does not bark. He or she should learn to associate the doorbell and no barking with a treat, not the arrival of guests.

Be consistent. Dogs are very bright and willing to please, but you have to be clear about what you want and expect the same behavior every time the doorbell rings. It will take some work, but a dog that barks at doorbells can learn to regard the ding-dong of a doorbell as a cheery call for a treat.

Sue Furman has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at