WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR DOG IS REACTIVE TO THE DOOR?
With Halloween around the corner many of you will be worrying about how your dog is going to cope, particularly if they are a lockdown puppy or are reactive to the door. The first thing to say is that there is no shame in politely requesting that trick or treaters don’t knock on your door. In fact it is highly recommended that you do. If your dog is already worried by a single delivery driver coming to the door in the daylight, imagine how they are going to feel when multiple children appear in the dark with raised voices and wearing scary costumes. Add a notice to your door that a nervous dog lives here but to help themselves to sweets left on your porch if you would like to do so.
Why is my dog barking at the door?
The answer is that there are many reasons why they could be reactive. Dogs bark to communicate with us and each bark has a different meaning.
Alarm barking is what your dog will do if he is worried by a passer-by or a knock on the door. This type of bark tends to be loud and fast with a WOOWOOWOOWOOWOO sound. Body language alongside alarm barking suggests that your dog is fearful, such as low posture, ears back and tail lowered. If this rings bells for you then your dog is likely to be frightened by visitors.
Your dog could also be barking out of sheer excitement or frustration when they hear the door. These dogs may jump up at visitors, mouth them and have very waggy tails.
What can I do to help?
Some steps to take:
- Add a sign to the door asking people not to knock or ring the bell, but to text you when they are here instead.
- Install an external post box.
- Close the blinds or add vinyl window stickers.
- Greet visitors outside of your house with your dog and go for a short walk around the block before all going back to the house together.
- For excitable dogs, if you know you have a visitor and your dog is going to go into overdrive give them something calming to do beforehand, such as a frozen Mud Daddy Lick Mat.
- You can also teach your dog to fetch a toy when the door goes so that their mouths are occupied and they are unable to bark!
It is also possible to desensitise your dog to the sound of the doorbell or knocking:
- Knock lightly on a table with your dog in front of you and give them a treat
- Make the knocks slightly louder each time and treat
- Move to an internal door, still with your dog in front of you
- Move to the other side of the door
- Move to the front door
For dogs who are reactive to the doorbell; use a doorbell soundtrack and gradually increase the volume on your phone each time. Move the phone around into different rooms to make it more realistic.
If your dog is particularly anxious or reactive around visitors speak to a force free trainer or Behaviourist to work on the behaviour in a kind and effective way.
Rachael Claire is an IMDT accredited Behaviourist specialising in remote Separation Anxiety training.