What does the sound of a doorbell or knock at the door bring to mind? Is it happy anticipation of an awaited delivery? Perhaps a visit from a friend or family member? Alternatively, does it cause an avalanche of barking and frantic canine paws running to the front door to see what is going on? Even if the dog does not bark or growl at people at the door, trying to get the door open and safely wrangle an over-excited canine without them escaping or jumping all over the person outside is not easy.
The simplest and most effective way to solve the problem of dogs running to the front door is not to try to stop them but instead to teach them something else to do instead. This is a much more positive step than trying stopping them running to the front door and risk the dog or human family members possibly becoming frustrated as they struggle to get there.
Running to the front door is a self-rewarding behaviour. By running to the door, the dog gets what they want – to see what is going on, and human attention, all at the same time. By teaching an alternative behaviour we would like them to perform instead, we can use that urge to gain a reward with something else the dog can do rather than running to the front door.
A great alternative behaviour to coach on hearing someone at the door is for the dog to go and settle in a chosen spot. This could be in a crate or on a bed, or in a room behind a baby gate for instance. Once the quiet spot is selected, we make it a great place for the dog to go to, with lots of rewards for being there. As the dog comes to realise his bed or mat is a wonderful place, introduce the chosen cue word – bed, mat or settle for example.
This is the point at which some help from friends or family comes in useful, as they can ring or knock at the door while we continue handing out the goodies for the dog staying quiet in their chosen place. As this new behaviour falls into place, we can begin to move towards the front door and throw treats to the dog while they stay in place until, in the end, the dog is happy to stay in place while we open the front door.
Coaching this alternative to the dog running to the front door is great for safety, cutting down on the risk of a dog escaping in the excitement of a visitor, and allows for calm and polite greeting of guests, making a much more comfortable visit all round.
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