How to Stop a Dog From Barking at Visitors
Dogs are territorial. Some have particularly strong territorial instincts and become agitated or aggressive when people arrive at your house. By barking, your dog is alerting you to the presence of intruders. He thinks he's doing a good job. Although it's natural and may be done with the best intentions, it's not appropriate nor pleasant for your dog to bark at all visitors. In fact, he may become distressed if he thinks you're ignoring his warnings! Fortunately you can train him out of this behavior using a series of kind corrective methods.
Desensitizing Doggie To the Doorbell
1 - Ring the doorbell or have a family member ring the doorbell once every hour for five hours, or as many as you can conveniently manage. This is often the trigger that sets off your dog's barking. The doorbell can be more startling than the presence of visitors.
2 - Pretend you don't hear the bell. Lucky looks to you for guidance: if you start fussing over him to keep him quiet, he'll sense a change in your behavior and assume there is a problem. If he barks, ignore him. However, if he happens to ignore the doorbell, verbally praise him. The purpose of this process is to make the doorbell normal for the dog, but you should never pass up the chance to reward good behavior.
3 - Repeat the doorbell-ringing process every day for two weeks. By the end of the two weeks Lucky should be used to the doorbell and not startled when it sounds.
Practice Makes Perfect!
1 - Have a friend come over and ring the bell. It's best to use a friend Lucky knows. Before the arranged time, put Lucky on a leash.
2 - Walk Lucky to the door with you as you open it. Reward him verbally for as long as he remains calm. For example, "Good boy, Lucky!" Give him a treat for every 10 seconds he abstains from yelling at your guest.
3 - Invite your visitor in and allow Lucky to say hi too. As soon as Lucky barks, withdraw your verbal praise, put the treats in your pocket and walk him away for a timeout. Although he's barking, the presence of the stranger is interesting to him, and being isolated from the new goings-on will upset him. The withdrawal of the praise and treats are a negative consequence to Lucky's impolite welcome. Have your friend leave, then return in five minutes. This helps Lucky get used to the process.
4 - Repeat this process daily for two weeks, or for as long as your friend is willing to help. If necessary, get more than one friend on board. With sufficient repetition Lucky will learn that staying calm and passive results in treats and verbal praise, while barking results in those nice things being taken away. This is called negative punishment.
When Real Guests Arrive
1 - Have all visitors call you before they arrive, so you can leash Lucky. If necessary, put a note on the door asking them to call your cell instead of ringing the doorbell.
2 - Reward him with praise.
3 - Invite your visitor into the house and reward Lucky with a food treat for his good manners. If he barks, say, "Thank you." If he barks again, give him a time out. He's allowed one chance here.
4 - Remove the leash and allow Lucky to mingle with your guests once he's calmed down and is used to their presence.
By Simon Foden
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.