How to Stop a Dog From Acting Aggressive to People at the Door

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 8, 2023

stop a dog from acting aggressive to people at the door

For this West LA dog training session we worked with 2 year-old Terrier mix Baxter, sharing tips to stop a dog from acting aggressive to people at the door.

This was a hybrid session, we conducted the first portion of it at Baxter’s home and then finished up where Baxter’s guardian works so I could go over how to teach a dog to not act aggressive at the door.

Knowing that Baxter is sometimes reactive to people who enter his home, I use some Dog Behaviorist secrets to ensure that our initial greeting went well. They worked fantastically and a couple of minutes later, Baxter was so comfortable with me he was eating treats and  ok with me petting him and picking him up.

stop a dog from acting aggressive at the door

I recommended Baxter’s guardian uses the same approach when anyone comes to visit. Creating a positive first impression can make a world of difference when working with a reactive dog.

We covered a number of dog behavior fundamentals. We introduced and loaded a marker word, I showed the guardian how to use hand targeting to practice using the marker, we went over how to introduce cues, the importance of celebrating desired behaviors, how to teach dog manners, some creative forms of exercise as well as how to read dog body language and cut off signals.

After working with thousands of dogs, I’ve learned that one of the reasons I’m able to get my clients such great results is I show them how to fix the problem as well as what they do that might be doing that contribute to their dog’s issues. Many people are unaware of the common mistakes that humans make that confuse dogs or contribute to their dog’s unwanted behaviors.

The goal in my initial session is to help people understand where their dog is coming from and the “why” of their behavior. All dog behavior is trying to achieve something, most people just are unable to identify what that is. Instead they look at the behavior as a nuisance and something to stop as opposed to an indicator of a greater issue.

How to Stop a Dog From Acting Aggressive to People at the Door

Since this dog door aggression was the worst when he joins his human at work, we relocated to the office so we could practice there. I wanted to see the layout so I could come up with the most effective way to stop aggressive dog behavior at the door.

There are many reasons why dogs act aggressive to people at the door. Sometimes it’s territorial, sometimes the dog thinks its job is to guard the location and some dogs behavior aggressive at the door out of fear and anxiety.

As Santa Monica’s dog behavior expert, one of my top goals is to change a dog’s emotional response. Frequently I do this through desensitization and counterconditioning. Sometimes one, but often times with them both.

Since there were multiple elements in play with Baxter’s door aggression, I wanted to break things down into small individual steps. Many people overwhelm their dog or try to do too many things at once which is the reason why many people are unsuccessful at stopping unwanted dog behaviors.

I wanted to show the guardian how he could use some of the dog behavior fundamentals we covered in his home as well as a proper solution to this aggressive dog behavior at the door.

I pulled out my camera and set it up so that I could demonstrate an easy way to stop a dog from acting aggressive to people at the door. If your dog is reactive when people come to your home or business, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

By first desensitizing Baxter from the sounds that are associated with someone walking through the door, his guardian can really set him up for success. Playing a recording of the telephone ringing and the door sound opening while Baxter is relaxed at home or eating his dinner is a great way to start to change his emotional response.

By providing something positive with the arrival of people at the door, the guardian can help the dogs start to see people at the door as a good thing instead of something to protest or disagree with.

It will be important for the guardian to go slow, or at least at Baxter’s pace. Many people practice too long or too intensely which causes the dog to react. That is the last thing you want to have happen. The key to this secret to stopping aggressive dog behavior at the door is to create a scenario where the dog is aware of the person but it’s not so intense that they feel the need to react.

What’s the dog feels comfortable practicing at that distance, then the guardian can start to get a little bit closer to the window or door and practice again. It will take time and consistency to help Baxter stop acting aggressive to people at the door. I suggested the guardian set up a visual barrier blocker as well as continue to tether Baxter in his work area to prevent him from charging the door or seeing people when they come through when he is not able to practice. Stopping a dog from practicing unwanted behavior is almost as important as the methods that we use to rehabilitate dogs.

Baxter’s guardian will need to be proactive, arranging for friends or coworkers to play the part of arriving through the door so that he can practice with a cooperating party. That is another dog behaviorist tip; setting up a scenario for the best practice results. Many people react to situations that happen instead of crafting a situation where you can control the elements and set the dog up for success. A fantastic principle to use if you want to stop a dog from acting aggressive to people at the door.

This will be harder to do this live for the UPS or other delivery trucks, which is why I recommend it a try to make a audio recording of their arrival so that the guardian can play it at a low volume while Baxter eats his food to desensitize him to that trigger. Practicing when we are ready as opposed to trying to practice after it already starts,.

To help the guardian remember all of the positive dog training tips we covered in this in-home Santa Monica dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can watch below

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This post was written by: David Codr