Teaching a Pitbull to Stop Barking at the Door

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 30, 2022

stop barking at the door

For this LA dog training session we taught anxious 11-year-old Pitbull Roxie to stop barking at the door.

Roxie was very aroused when I came into the home. She was both excited and what I interpreted as frustrated. Her pupils were dilated, her ears pinned back, she was breathing heavily, pacing the room and had a very stiff body to go along with a lot of aggressive body interactions. All classic signs of stress.

I redirected her by dropping a lot of treats on the ground but quickly learned that her anxiety is usually so pronounced when visitors are in her home that Roxie will either physically interact with them in a somewhat forceful way or almost compulsively chew on a towel or dog toy.

It appears that Roxie is trying as hard as she can to channel her anxiety into something more constructive then becoming aggressive with people. I strongly recommended the guardian encourage her chewing or mouthing other items by leaving them strewn around the room. These will give her the ability to self soothe which is super important. But I also suggested the guardian limit outside visitors to shorter visits that are planned for instead of just drop by‘s.

When we have someone come by our house and have a reactive dog or one that offers unwanted behaviors, we often end up trying to treat teach and train the dog while we act as a host in one of the more advanced social interaction the dog will experience. That’s very common, but also a great way to set the dog up to fail. No one can give the required attention to both host and dog management that a dog liek Roxie needs.

I explained to the guardian how important it is to create a scenario or situation where the dog can be around whatever she’s reactive to, at a low enough level of intensity that she is not so manic. Since people coming over to the home definitely arouse Roxie, keeping those visits short and structured will be highly advantageous.

I recommended the guardian purchase a number of high value injestible chew items like cow kneecaps, bully sticks, collagen sticks, tendons, tracheas, Kong‘s filled with peanut butter as well as lick mats. These will come in very handy and help distract Roxie form unwanted behaviors while also giving her a healthy outlet to release some of the her anxiety and energy.

We can also set the dog up for success by burning off excess enervy before guests arrive. A great way to do this would be to exercise Roxy before guests come over, followed bvy 10 minutes of rest to recover.  Combining that with a short visit that is structured, where the dog has something to lick or chew, can help Roxie process the experience better and practice more desireable behaviors.

I also recommended the guardian speak to her veterinarian about the possibility of getting some medication for Roxie. Roxie‘s anxiety is quite intense and I think some fluoxetine could have a very dramatic or at least a very positive influence on the intensity of her arrousal and anxiety.

We went over a number of fundamentals such as marker words, some mental stimulation exercises, the importance of rewarding desired behaviors and how to direct Roxies attention towards positive interactions as opposed to actions that are not always socially appropriate.

Asking Roxie to sit before receiving some pets or attention, will help establish some more appropriate behavior patterns. Practicing in a lower level of intensity is super important when you’re doing dog behavior modification. By practicing the behaviors you want when no one is around other than the guardians, Roxie can form some good habits when she is in a calm and balanced state of mind.

How to stop a dog from barking at the door

One of the triggers for Roxie was the sound of a knock of the door. As soon as Roxie hears that sound, she goes onto high alert and her arousal is through the roof. This happens before someone even steps foot in the home. This causes Roxie to become excited and its super common that barking is accompanied with this behavior. If your dog barks a lot, helping them stay calm can help them learn to avoid barking when people knock on the door.

I handed my camera to the guardian so that I could demonstrate a desensitization counterconditioning exercise to stop dogs from barking at knocks at the door. If your dog barks when it hears someone knock on the door, you should check out the free positive dog training video below.

By knocking at a low enough level of intensity, and then following it up with a treat, we can help Roxie start to build a positive association with the sound of knocking at the door. Gradually, her guardian can increase the intensity level of the knock’s sound and frequency until it sounds like somebody’s actually knocking at the door and Roxie is looking around for the person that owes her a treat. I love teaching dogs to not bark when people knock on the door.

It’ll be important for the guardians to practice this exercise 3 to 5 times a day when there is no one outside the door. It also would help if the guardians could put a sign up at the door asking people not to knock and to text them instead. When doing dog behavior modificaiton, you want to prevent a dog for practicing unwanted behavior as much as possible. Since the sound of knocking on your door unexpectedly causes Roxy to get excited, you want to manage that exposure as much as possible.

I would really like to come back and work with Roxie in 4 to 6 weeks if her guardian starts a regimen of fluoxetine. Roxie is a good dog and she’s doing the best she can, but is in such an aroused state that I’m worried it’s not healthy for her and could lead to some unwanted social interactions. The good news is, she loves her guardian and seems to be very smart. Channeling her motivation in the positive direction can do wonders with the help of some medication to lower the intensity level of her anxiety.

We covered a lot of other topics in this in-home LA dog behavior training session so I recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr