Halloween Training Tips: Stop Barking at the Doorbell
By Hannah Stein
Does your dog bark every time the doorbell rings? If so, then you know how difficult it is to celebrate Halloween at home. Trick-or-treaters travel from house to house enjoying the festivities. When they get to your home, they are frightened by your pup’s defensive howl. You may be dreading the constant headache from a yappy dog, but you can use this holiday as a valuable training opportunity. Here are a few of the best ways to train your dog to remain calm at the sound of the doorbell.
1. Create a New Association
Experienced dog trainer Cesar Milan suggests to establish a new, calm association from the sound of a doorbell. Begin by having your dog calmly sit. Enlist the help of a friend to go outside and ring the doorbell. If your pup does not react, they will get a treat. If they do react, distract them with a treat (do NOT give it yet). Once they are refocused on the treat instead of the door, have them calmly sit. Then give them the treat! This creates the association that “doorbell = treats.” Over time, you will be able to ditch the treats.
2. Verbal Cue
Go towards the door with your dog nearby. Next, reach towards the doorknob while saying your verbal cue (ie: wait, hold, etc.). Step away from the door and have your dog sit in a particular spot. Once your pup has calmly sit, give a treat. Repeat these steps while moving further from the door before asking “sit.” Once your dog is ready, go towards the door from a different part of the house. Your pup should go to the spot where you previously had them sit. If your dog goes and sits on their spot, toss a treat. If they do not, redirect them to their spot and treat once seated. Then, add opening the door. After your pup has learned to go to their spot at the opening of the door, add the doorbell. Over time, keep reinforcing this respectful behavior.
This is an option for pups who are not food motivated. When your dog starts barking at the door, turn your back to your dog and ignore the howling. Once your dog has stopped barking, turn back around and give your pup attention. As your dog builds the association that “quiet = attention,” lengthen the amount of time your pup must remain quiet.
4. Teach Your Dog the Command “Speak” and “Quiet”
It may seem counterintuitive, but teaching your dog to speak will refocus their natural instinct to bark. They will learn to association barking with a way to earn a treat. Choose a quiet command like “hush,” “enough,” or “quiet.” First, treat your dog when they are done barking. Next, add your command as you give the treat. Repeat these steps and lengthen the amount of time between when your pups stops barking and when you give the treat.
5. Keep Them Distracted
Do you have an anxious, scared dog? Then all the Halloween sights, sounds, smells, strangers, scary masks, and giant costumes might frighten your pup. It may be best to keep your doggy crated or in a safe room for the evening. Keep your pup distracted with interactive toys, tasty bones, and by spending time with them.
Halloween is arguably one of the most fun holidays. Try these training tips to encourage your pup to enjoy the spooky holiday, too!