Halloween Horrors – Barking At The Door

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Fear of Visitors = Barking at the Door

Halloween is a fun holiday – for you humans. But from a dog’s perspective, however, it can be a little scary for us. Not only are our humans dressing strangely, but there are strangers at the door or in the house, and according to dog logic, that’s a good reason to start barking. It’s a natural reaction to stimuli, but not one the humans want, especially if they’re having visitors in the home. Here’s a step by step method our humans can use to train us on how to be calm when visitors are at the door.

barking at door 1_CCwebbarking at door 3_CCweb

Step 1: Preparing Your Dog

Have your dog wear a leash tied to the collar as a drag line. When someone enters the room, call your dog to you. If they will not come to you, pick up the drag line and, speaking in a friendly and comforting tone, lead your dog to a spot in the same room and tie (tether) them there. Use a heavy piece of furniture or other secure fixed tie point (e.g., screw eye bolt affixed to a wall or other non-moveable structure).reward for guest coming in_CCweb

Step 2: Make Their Spot Alluring

When you put them in the tether spot, place a handful of treats on the floor as a reward. As you return to the door toss treats back at your dog even if barking.reward at tether_CCweb

Step 3: If They’re Still Reacting

If barking, lunging, or growling persists, take your dog farther away from the door. If need be, put your pet in another room or a kennel if they are happy there. Give them a Kong, treats, a handful of food, or a special toy so they see that this other room is a good place.tethering for barking_CCweb

Step 4: Train Them That The Doorknob & A Guest Is A Good Thing

If they are calm in their spot or in another room, toss rewards as you allow your guest to enter. Break it down into steps, each with a treat reward. Touch the door knob toss treats, open the door toss treats, greet the person toss treats, have the guest toss treats as they come in, have the guest sit down and toss treats. If they are calm and laying in the spot, keep tossing treats to them as you are talking. If you feel ok with how they are doing then you can let them off their tether, but leave the dragline on. Have the guest toss kibble to them as you are talking.

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Practice with friends coming over at least 2 times a week. Try various people and have your pet hungry.

Learn More:

To learn more about dealing with fear-based aggression in dogs, check out Dr. Yin’s DVD on Dog Aggression.

Dog Aggression from Sophia Yin on Vimeo.

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Dr. Sally J. Foote
DVM, CABC-IAABC
Executive Director, CattleDog Publishing

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4 responses to “Halloween Horrors – Barking At The Door

  1. I have a westie mix from the shelter. he is not real good with kids.or dogs but very passive with adults. he has nipped at my 5 yr. old grandson when he tried to hug him and when he tryed to stop him from going out the door. He did not break the skin but left a mark. I really need some tips to make myself more comfortable with him.

  2. please see our posters on proper dog greetings as a start (put poster in blog search)
    Hugging dogs, reaching and rushing up to them threatens them and ofter they will attemp to bite if not left alone
    Start here and then consult with your veterinarian about his behavior

  3. My
    Schnauzer is fearful of small children. She takes an aggressive stance and seems ready to bite if a child approaches. I have given a child a treat to give etc. She accepts it but is not to be trusted .

    1. Please get the DVD Dog aggression to understand how your dog is showing early signs of fear, leading to the aggressive stance which is still risky. Taking the treat is ok for that moment and you are right, it is still risky. The DVD will also teach you about how to reward your dog in the scary situations and to notice when your dog is getting up set.

      There is also a booklet how to greet a dog for children.

      Please contact a veterinarian with Behavior expertise – you can look at avsab.org and search for one near you. There are 15 major classes of aggression, so identifying the aggression, the triggers and a plan specific for your dog in your home is essential.
      Dr Sally J Foote

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