13 tips to teach your dog not to bark at the doorbell

We had a friend over last weekend and Ace barked and charged the door. I did nothing to stop him, and Josh even yelled something like, “Get’m, killer!”

Well, no wonder our dog barks at the doorbell!

Then, when the doorbell rang yesterday, Ace stopped and turned to look at me for direction. Good boy! I had him sit and stay a few feet from the door when I answered it. He stayed until I opened the door, and then I failed to reinforce the sit-stay. He got up, intent on doing some serious sniffing and drool “sliming.”

So … if you want your dog to do a certain behavior, you have to be consistent. Don’t do what I’ve been doing where you give direction one day and no direction the next.

Here are some tips to teach your dog not to bark at the doorbell:

Teach your dog not to bark at the doorbell

1. Decide what you want your dog to do.

One or two barks is OK when the doorbell rings, but nonstop barking is unnecessary. I want my dog to go no closer than four feet from the front door, sit and stay until I release him. Maybe you have a dog bed in another room you want your dog to stay on. Maybe you want her to go to her kennel. Maybe you want her to lie down. Or maybe you don’t mind if she barks, but you want her to keep all four paws on the ground. Figure out what you want her to do, rather than focusing on what you don’t want. It’s easy to begin training once you have a plan.

2. Practice this every day.

Dogs need dozens or even hundreds of repetitions before a behavior is conditioned. That means I have to practice this with Ace at least several times a week.

3. Start by ringing the doorbell yourself.

Ring the doorbell, and then immediately direct your dog. If you want her to go to her bed, tell her the command for that. In my case, it will be, “Ace, sit. Stay.” Then he will get a treat. Do this about 10 times in a row. By then, some dogs will automatically do the behavior at the sound of the doorbell. Food is more important to my dog than the doorbell, so he will start to think, “Doorbell. Sit. Food.”

4. Also practice knocking.

Do the same thing, only knock at the door loudly. Give your dog a treat when she does what you want.

5. Pretend to answer the door, even though no one is there.

Make a really big deal out of it. “Hey! How’s it going!” If your dog breaks from the position, put her back. Remember to train your dog in small steps, so if this step is too challenging for her, return to an easier step so she can be successful.

6. Practice with a family member.

The next step is to have an understanding friend or family member come to the door. Have them enter and re-enter the door 10 times so your dog gets lots of practice.

7. Encourage friends to ignore your dog.

The hardest part about teaching a dog not to jump, bark or break a stay position at the door is most people who visit love dogs. Dog lovers naturally pet, talk to, look at and make a big deal over the dog. I do the same thing. We dog lovers even say things like, “Oh, it’s OK if he jumps. I don’t mind.” It’s very hard for a dog to stay if someone new is talking to them in an excited voice or just making a big deal about the dog in general.

8. Be consistent with this every time the doorbell rings.

Dog owners tend to be pretty lenient with their dogs around other dog owners. At least I am. When my family members visit, I know they love Ace and don’t care if he gets pushy. They are even tolerant when he drools on their pants. But what does this teach my dog? It teaches him that sometimes he can get away with whatever he wants.

9. Practice at the back door, too.

My dog goes nuts if he sees someone in our backyard. He’s usually pretty bad when someone comes to the front door, but he’s typically good at the garage door because half the time he doesn’t notice someone new came in. The point is, practice what you want your dog to do at each doorway.

10. Decide how long you want your dog to stay before you release her.

I don’t have a specific length of time I want Ace to stay. It really depends on who is visiting. If a delivery person is at my door, I want Ace to stay until that person is gone. When friends are over with their dogs, I won’t expect Ace to stay for more than a few seconds. But I want him to stay until I release him no matter what. It could be five seconds, it could be 10 minutes.

11. Reinforce the stay command while guests are visiting.

Sometimes it’s nice to have your dog stay in one spot for up to a half-hour when guests are over. This really teaches the dog to be calm before they can seek attention from visitors. If you have a hyper dog but she is trained well to stay on her bed for up to a half-hour, then she can still be a part of the “pack” rather than be shut away in a kennel. It’s also convenient if the dog stays on her bed while people are eating. My mutt decided to make a scene during Thanksgiving dinner and cry while he stayed on his bed. He then proceeded to cry when I put him in his kennel. This just shows that I haven’t reinforced the stay command often enough when guests are over. This is a very good thing to practice. Start with just 30 seconds or a minute at a time.

12. Keep your dog on the leash.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping your dog on her leash when people come to the door or when guests are over. If it keeps her under control until she has had more training, then great. You might also want to try a Gentle Leader.

13. Make sure all people in your household are consistent.

If you make your dog sit and stay at the front door but your kids don’t, then your dog won’t understand what she is supposed to do. Dogs need repetitions of the same behavior.

What would you add to this list?

20 Readers Commented

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  1. Apryl DeLancey on December 19, 2008

    Another solution is to have a really lazy dog that doesn’t care if people come over. Mine came with that feature!

    • Holly on July 19, 2016

      I also have a lazy dog that doesn’t bark and waits till people are in the house before he gets off couch. I wish he would bark. I stay alone a lot and wish to maybe warn strangers.

  2. vee on December 19, 2008

    whoa- I came to this same realization last night! You read my mind!
    ALTHOUGH…I’m still debating if barking is a bad thing because we are without a doorbell and sometimes we don’t hear people knock unless the pooches make a ruckus

  3. Biggie-Z on December 19, 2008

    Are you reading my mind?!?!

    We did pretty much all these steps for the buzzer for our apartment, and Biggie will whimper and ran to the door and let us know someone buzzed. But oddly enough he goes ballistic when he hears a traditional “ding-dong” doorbell on TV, which is NOT what our buzzer sounds like!

    Also he goes bonkers when there are people walking around in the hallway. Any suggestions there? (He knows when it’s us and is quiet. We tried that.)

  4. Lindsay Stordahl Author on December 19, 2008

    Barking at the door is a preference thing. I think one or two barks is a good enough warning. Then the dog should let the human take care of it. I can see why some people would want their dogs to bark more. I don’t.

    As for Biggie, I imagine you have people in your hallway a lot! Have you tried making him lie down on his bed every time he is about to bark at people? I wonder if he does it when you are gone too or just when you are home.

  5. Ty Brown on December 19, 2008

    Great tips. These are all things I recommend to my clients

  6. Cynthia on December 19, 2008

    It takes a lot of time and commitment to teach a dog not to bark at the door… or to only bark in a limited way. 🙂 I actually don’t mind when my dogs bark at the door, I feel they are keeping me safe.

  7. Abz & Chels on December 23, 2008

    The problem I have isnt Chelsea but Lucy yap yap…she goes psycho which then sets Chels off. We put her in the laundry now, then open the door….

  8. the three dog blogger on December 23, 2008

    Getting friends to ignore the Dogs when they first see them works wonders.
    They calm down so much quicker if they are not given a fuss each time they se them.
    They learn quickly that they will get attention once they are at normal energy levels.

  9. Connie on August 9, 2011

    Hi there,

    I have followed your advice and for Stella it worked out well. Thanks!

  10. Lisa on October 30, 2012

    I want my dogs to bark when someone knocks on my door! It means someone, most likely a stranger is on my property, and my dog’s property. My home is part of my dog’s territory, and they will bark when someone invades it.
    They are supposed to alert me to it.
    Oh, I don’t have a doorbell, so it has to be a knock, and dogs hate those!

  11. Mrs.Thompson on February 24, 2013

    I will definitely try this for at home.
    my issue is in the car, if either my husband or I leave the car, or a dog is nearby, my dog goes ballistic.
    He even knows he shouldn’t and will stay away from us so he can continue to bark.
    If you have any suggestions please let me know.
    thank you for this excellent blog.
    Also, my dog is a golden retriever mix.

  12. Terry on March 1, 2013

    We adopted a chihuahua/Rottweiler mix who can be very excitable. We live in an apartment building with multiple roommates, we have visitors at all hours, and he started barking at most all of them, especially in the evening.

    I’m gonna try these tips to teach him not to bark so much, not just for the sake of my neighbors, but for his, too. I don’t want him to be so anxious. We have lots of friends, he should be his friends, too!

  13. Krista on July 19, 2016

    My dog is shepherd he’s always on protective mode and barks at anything that gets too close to our door and even outside if people gets to close.

  14. Cecily Hunter on July 19, 2016

    This is very useful! We have a (new) very reactive gilr who not only barks but charges while barking. We have not been able to solicit enough help to practice changing her behavior. It had not occured to use to do “fake” visits! duh!

  15. Diana on July 20, 2016

    my son has a 3 1/2 year old cockapoo, great dog, can walk off leash, very gentle, listens well, no accidents in the house at all, unless he leaves for work or other activities. He has tried putting the dog in a smaller crate so he only has room to turn around, gives him toys, walks him, puts out to potty before he leaves, and every single time the dog pees in crate. Tried putting him in bathroom on a squishy dog bed that he loves and puts up baby gate, the dog pees. My son just doesn’t know what he can do to stop this behavior.

  16. Connie and Rick on November 20, 2016

    I would love to know just where in my house, you are hiding – because every post you send seems to fit what we are experiencing with our pup at that moment. Just yesterday, my husband and I were saying that we needed to practice the doorbell ringing. We have an 8 1/2 month dobe, Julie – and I have a feeling that she and your Remy are a great deal alike! Thanks for all of the advice you have sent!! We’re trying hard……… LOL Julie is going to be a great dog, some day!

  17. Sharon on November 20, 2016

    We have 5 dogs. Every one of them knows how to do this individually, but when they are all together mob rule takes over. Short of always having 5 friends (one per dog) to help with door greetings, any other ideas?

  18. katherine on November 21, 2016

    Good tips. When coco here’s the doorbell which plays songs she goes nuts and runs to the door. I tell her ok now go to your room and she knows to go lay on her bed. She also knows if it is family or a friend she can come out after a couple of minutes. If its the maintenance person to fix something in the apartment she will stay on her bed until he leaves or I call her. Most of the time we don’t close the door to her room. If there is ever a dangerous situation that may occur she would come out and protect family members. She is very alert and what he’s everything