Teaching a Pair of Little Dogs to Stop Barking at the Door

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 14, 2015

Sadie and Bailey

Bailey and Sadie’s guardian called me for help with Sadie a nine-month-old Yorkie who is pestering / aggressive with their Morkie Bailey. They also wanted me to help put an end to their over barking, especially when people came to the door.

Whenever I am dealing with a pack of dogs who think its their job to raise an alert when someone knocks, I try to identify what sort of structure they live by. Security is a job that is usually reserved for leaders in a pack of dogs.

As I suspected, the dogs didn’t really have much structure to their day to day lives. Its a safe bet that the dogs think they are doing their family a service by raising the alarm when they hear someone at the door.

To change this perception, I went over a few leadership exercises with their guardians. At first I had one of the family members hold one of the dogs while I worked with the other. Fortunately both of these dogs were intelligent and picked up the exercises fairly quickly.

After I went through the leadership exercise I showed them how to practice a recall exercise as well. For this exercise I had both dogs free, but only rewarded the first dog to comply. By only rewarding the first dog to respond, we can motivate the other dog to respond faster. This little trick can go a long way towards increasing your dog’s responsiveness and overall obedience.

Next I suggested some simple rules and went over some non verbal communication methods to help the guardians communicate what they wanted form their dogs in a way the dogs understood and responded to. Enforcement of these rules gives the guardians the opportunity to practice being leaders to their dogs while also helping the dogs understand that the humans have the situation under control and don’t need the dogs to handle security anymore.

Once the dogs seemed to be respecting and responding to their guardians properly, I tacked their behavior at the door. I had one of the guardians leave and wait a few moments outside so we could practice how the behave when there is a knock at the door.

When dogs bark at the door, its natural for the human to rush a bit to get to the door with the mistaken belief that opening the door will stop the barking. But in reality, this rushing only ads to the excitement the dogs are feeding on. In many cases this increase in speed leads the dos to bark even more!

So as soon as the knocking started, I got up and walked calmly to the door at a normal pace. Once I got past the dogs I turned and faced Sadie who was more excited and intense in her barking. I made a hissing sound to disagree with her actions, then stepped right at her. I continued marching right at her until she backed away 10 feet from the door.

Once Sadie was back behind the 10 foot boundary i wanted her to respect, I turned my attention to Bailey. He was much easier to back away from the door. Of course once I turned my attention to Bailey, Sadie attempted to approach the door. As soon as she did, I made a hissing sound again and marched right at her until she turned away.

All the while this was going on, their guardian was knocking at the door profusely. I wanted to make the situation worst case so I could set the bar high. Once the dogs were behind the line, I walked backwards to the door and opened it. All together it took about 4 minutes before I was able to open the door, but when I did, the dogs were much calmer than when I arrived for the session.

I had their guardian leave so we could practice the exercise again, this time with the other guardian answering the door. Because of the work I did the first time, it was much easier for their guardian to get them to back away from the door, taking only two minutes and getting far less barking.

We swapped places so the dog’s other guardian could practice the exercise. This third time the dogs only barked twice and were much easier to get away from the door. By the time we wrapped up practicing the door exercise, the barking had almost completely stopped and getting he dogs to stay away from the door was a breeze.

The fundamental issue with Sadie and Bailey is that their guardians were not communicating what they wanted from their dogs in a way the dogs understood. The lack of rules and structure confused the dogs as whenever either one assumed a leadership posture, activity or position, the guardians didn’t realize the dogs were asserting themselves. Now that they know what to look for and how to disagree with unwanted behaviors, the days of over barking and ignoring their guardians are over.

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