Do you need hearing protection when someone knocks or rings your doorbell?
Want your dog to be calm when a guest arrives?
It is possible!
Puppies and dogs of all ages can benefit from this course.
The skills learned will help build the relationship between you and your dog help him or her understand the normal manners that are expected when company is knocking or ringing your doorbell.
Step 1: Decide what behavior you DO want, and give it a name like ‘company’ or ‘doorbell’ which will become the cue for her to perform that behavior: Some expamples of proper door manners are having your dog go to a mat near the door, or to a specific room and wait, or go into their crate. Allowing them to bark once, then giving them the cue to perform the behavior you want, etc.
The reason for choosing a behavior you want to happen is that it is easier to teach them to ‘do’ something, than it is to teach them to ‘not do’ something. Imagine going into a classroom and your teacher giving no instruction other than saying ‘no, nope, ah-ah’ every time you did what you thought you were supposed to do. You wouldn’t be any closer to the ‘right’ choice, but you’d likely be anxious and frustrated.
I heard the doorbell!
Step 2: Set up management: Arrange the environment so that the desired behavior is easier, and more rewarding, than the undesired behavior. This could be placing a mat near the door and a jar of yummy treats or awesome chew toy handy so you can start reinforcing the behavior quickly. Or it can be putting up a baby gate so he can’t get to the door. And/or place a note on your door for delivery people/guests to text or call instead of knocking/ringing the bell so you have time to set your dog up for success.
Step 3: Start training the desired behavior when there is noone at the door. Choose a quiet time when there are no guests, no mail delivery, no packages coming, or other distractions.
Step 4:: Break the behavior down into tiny increments that your dog can handle. Don’t expect him to go from barking at the doorbell this morning, to running quietly to a mat this afternoon. Start by luring the behavior with treats/food or a toy, gradually decreasing the lure, and increasing the difficulty. Being sure to always reinforce (give a treat/toy) after they’ve performed the behavior, even if you lured it.
Step 5: Increase duration: Once they’ve performed the behavior (such as going to a mat), reinforce them every few seconds so they’re staying there longer. As you go through more sessions, you’ll increase the time between treats, being careful not to increase too soon. The quickest way to the end result is by having the most successes. It’s better to end the session before yoru dog gets up than to try to stretch it out and they get up without you asking them to.
Step 6: Add a knock or doorbell, without an actual guest: Once you’ve trained the behavior to the point where you can say your cue, and your dog happily performs the behavior you taught him, you can add a knock/doorbell. Low volume at first (use an app, have someone gently knock one time, or put something on your doorbell speaker so it’s barely audible). Be ready with a treat, the moment they bark once, say ‘thank you’, give a treat (this prevents a second bark), then give the cue. If they don’t bark, but look at you, get up, or do anything other than the behavior you taught, give the cue. Once they perform that cued behavior, give another treat, then let them go back to what they were doing (you can give a release cue like ‘all done’ or ‘release’). The door isn’t being opened, just the sound of the kknock/doorbell. Repeat this randomly until they start to look at you the moment they hear the sound. (If this doesn’t happen after a dozen or so sessions or a few days, try lowering the volume of the knock/bell and increasing the value of the treat (chicken, steak, and hot dogs work great).
Step 7: Add a person. This is where your pup may seem to take a step backward in progress. They will probably get overly excited when they discover someone is actually there this time. For safety, have them on leash or tethered while training this part. The first few times should be almost a constant flow of treats (and kibble if your dog loves their dry food), and only opening the door an inch or two. Remember, setting him up for success gets you to the finish line quickest (that means making it more rewarding to continue performing the behavior you want, rather than barking and jumping at the door). Gradually increase timing between treats, watching body language and increasing the treats if she is getting restless, and gradually opening the door wider, but only do one at a time, don’t slow down on the treats and throw the door wide open at the same time. Work in small increments until you can fully open the door and greet the delivery person as they hand you your package, and your pup stays happily doing the behavior you chose.
This video is illustrates some of the steps:
If you’re still having trouble, sign up for private lessons by using the button below.
Download the guide in the right column and come back soon for a guide on how to teach manners when greeting people.
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