Thursday, April 10, 2014

Training Tip: Dogs & Doorbells -- How to Manage the Madness

Cross-posting an article by Robin Bennett that appeared in Your Dog's Friend's recent e-newsletter.

Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and an author and consultant for pet care facilities on the subjects of dog daycare, training and off-leash dog play. Check out her blog for other training tips.

Dogs & Doorbells: How to Manage the Madness

Dogs and doorbells. They go together like…well usually like oil and water. The doorbell rings, the dog goes wild. Sound familiar? The heightened excitement as the dog races to the door, the barking which escalates in pitch with each step of the dog, the pushing and pulling to get your dog out of the way so you can answer the door, and the frantic conversation you have while simultaneously trying to prevent your dog from squeezing through the open door to run outside. And if you actually have to let the person in the house, this situation is even more chaotic! How can you manage the madness that happens when the doorbell rings?

Here’s one thing that has worked at my house: Teach your dog to go someplace else when the doorbell rings.

When my kids were younger, I didn’t want them opening the door with the dogs nearby. I was worried my dogs would race outside, or that they would scare another child coming over for a play date. So, I taught my dogs to run to the basement, rather than the front door, when the doorbell rang.

Dogs are not hardwired to know what a doorbell means. It is through their daily life with their family that they learn the association between the doorbell and the front door. Instead, why not just teach your dog that great things happen in another room when the doorbell rings?

Dogs are masters of learning associations. The leash means a walk. The opening of a cupboard means they get a treat. Picking up the food bowl means dinner is on its way. You can make a similar association with the doorbell. For my dog, the doorbell meant it was time to search for food in the basement!

To teach this simple association follow these five steps:
  1. Have someone ring the doorbell.
  2. Pick up some very tasty treats (the smellier the better) and show them to your dog.
  3. Toss the treats in the basement (or any other room).
  4. Shut the door when your dog goes to search for the treats.
  5. Answer the front door.
With practice, your dog will soon learn the doorbell means treats show up in another room and will run to that location willingly. Eventually, my dogs would run downstairs to the basement when the doorbell rang even without treats being thrown down the stairs. This allowed me (or my kids) to shut the door to the basement and safely open the front door. Rather than fighting the dog at the front door, the dog is now in a completely different room and safely behind a closed door. Simple…and easy enough that a child can do it!

For more of Robin Bennett's blogs, go to

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea! Thanks for the tips on "how to do it." Really need this info.