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.
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).
Step 2: Make Their Spot Alluring
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.
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.
To learn more about dealing with fear-based aggression in dogs, check out Dr. Yin’s DVD on Dog Aggression.
- Using the Treat&Train to Teach Fearful Dogs to Feel Comfortable with New Visitors in the House.
- My Dog is Fearful of Strangers: Tethering Dogs in Front of Stores.
- Puppy Socialization: Stop Fear Before it Starts.
Dr. Sally J. Foote
Executive Director, CattleDog Publishing