When the doorbell rings (or there's a knock at the door), does your once polite dog turn into a hot mess? Are your guests bombarded with kisses and paws coming at them? If so, read our tips on turning your pooch into a well-mannered host.
First, manage your dog's environment to prevent your dog from practicing this behavior while training an alternative behavior. Block your dog's access to the door and guests by putting up a baby gate or safely tethering your dog away from the door. This ensures that's when people come over your dog cannot immediately tackle them, and it prevents guests from reinforcing this behavior by talking to your dog or pushing him away.
Second, change your dog's association with the doorbell. Because the doorbell has been paired with people at the door, your dog's response has been conditioned. To change his response, you have to change the doorbell's meaning from something exciting to something more mundane. How do you do this? Have a friend or neighbor, ring your doorbell while your dog and you are near the door. When you hear the ring, you will say "here" and reward your dog. You want to be close to your dog. You can place your body between the door and your dog or have your dog on leash to have more control. Your friend won't enter but will continue to ring doorbell 20-30 times. You want to do two-three short sessions for several days. The goal is a dog who barely reacts to doorbell anymore.
Lastly, train a behavior that is incompatible with jumping, barking, and bowling people over. Stay, go to your bed, and sit are all great behaviors to add to your dog’s repertoire. The key is to train these behaviors before guests are in your home. Once they are reliably doing the behavior (90% of the time), you can begin pairing with the doorbell without guests entering. Then the final step would be getting the behavior when your guest come in.
CPDT-KA and Animal Behavior Consultant