How to Stop Dogs Going Mad at the Door…
Dudley doesn’t bark all too often but I know it would drive me nuts if my dogs kicked off every time a visitor called to the door. Anyone else have that problem?
A simple cure, should you want to calm it down a bit, is to set them up and reward the dogs when a visitor arrives. Get a friend ready outside to ring when you call her mobile (on the sly). You sit in the sitting room with your hungry dogs and have some high-quality sausage treats just out of reach. Call your friend with your phone (don’t make this obvious) which is her queue to ring the door bell or knock, whatever makes them more crazy. Your dog’s will go nuts. Calmly stand up, say nothing, walk over to the bowl of sausages, drop some on the floor then sit back down again. Repeat two or three times. On the fourth time walk past the bowl (leaving the dogs in a separate room), go answer the door, the friend walks into the sitting room and gives the dogs some more treats. Say nothing to them. Don’t engage. Keep it light and confident. Visitor treats and you both walk into the kitchen with dogs in tow wagging their tails.
Repeat this but from the kitchen, bed room, toilet. Every room of the house. Visitor calls. Dogs get treats. Visitor calls. Dogs get treats. Over time you alter how many times you go to the bowl before you answer the door. Sometimes it’s 3. Other times it’s 1. But the visitor always treats the dogs.
What you are doing is slowly changing the dog’s negative reaction to the sound of the door (for whatever reason but certainly made worse by your stressful efforts at control) to a positive one. Soon the arrival of visitors will be a happy time. Instead of focusing on the imminent threat of someone at the door (and Mum / Dad getting stressed) the dogs focus on you – is she going to give us treats or get the door?!
You are breaking that mad focus and putting it on you, once it’s on you, you have control. When you have control you can ask them to sit, lowering their heart rates but also instilling in them that you have this. They don’t need to worry about you or the door. This makes it more likely that over time they will hand over the responsibility of the door to you.
Have some fun with it. Can they hold the sit until the visitor comes in?! Make a game out of it. Positively involving them in the process will make pussycats out of them in a week.
And remember, if you’re not off the treats in a few weeks you’re doing it wrong. Treats are painkillers. Soon they should be doing it for a quick wrestle or pat on the head and a good boy with the very occasional treat. Paying treats out like a fruit machine (which is rarely), is far more addictive than paying out every time!