How do I teach my dog to behave when someone rings the doorbell?

Dog looking through glass door

Dogs are always alert and when they bark, it is invariably territorial barking. Territorial barking is your dog’s way of letting you know when there is someone on your ‘territory’. The best example of this is barking when someone comes to the door, for instance, the postman or a friend. It is your job as your dogs owner to teach them what they need to do instead. For most people this would be to train the dog to go to a place of safety away from the door, such as its bed, so that you do not have to worry about what your dog is doing when you open the door.

You will need to train your dog’s response to the sound of the doorbell as an exercise in itself.  We’ve compiled a list of top tips to achieve this below. If you have someone to work with you to operate the doorbell, all the better, but this is not essential in the early stages.

Steps to getting your dog used to the doorbell

  1. Get your dog to associate good things with the sound of the bell. Make sure that you have something that the dog wants, such as a high value treat or toy
  2. Sound the bell with your bell push and reward your dog
  3. Sound the bell with your bell push and then with your dog, move towards the safe area and feed your dog there
  4. Repeat a few times until you are confident your dog has understood
  5. Sound the bell and wait – be patient and let your dog do some thinking. If they look or go towards the safe area, go to it and lavishly deliver the reward
  6. Repeat a few times. After a while, your dog will start going over to the safe area to get his reward each time the doorbell rings. Do not get lazy, always get up and reward at the sound of the bell
  7. If your dog shows any reluctance towards going to their place, race them there and have a game of your own – when your dog gets to the safe place, reward them there. Next time, make sure the treats are extremely high value
  8. Repeat at random times, but always make sure you are ready to reward your dog
  9. Extend the duration your dog is in his place in the same way that you build up stay or wait training. Introduce a release cue and add distractions
  10. You could also add a verbal cue to double up your training of sending your dog to his bed/place
  11. Now you need to get someone to help by pressing it for you so that you can ensure your dog goes to its place and gets their reward

Practice makes perfect

Now invite some friends or family to come around at given times so that you can continue with your training when the bell rings. You could ask them to text you when they are close by so that you can make sure you’re ready. By now your dog should be excellent at going to their place. Tell the visitors to just ignore your dog until you invite him to release.

You can also repeat the training while they’re there by asking them to leave by the back door and then to go around to the front and ring the doorbell as if arriving for the first time.

Make sure you give additional rewards or longer-lasting rewards when people really do come as this will help your dog to keep calm and stay there longer.

Please note: there are many different ways to train your dog. This is just one method of teaching. If you are ever in doubt, please seek professional advice. 

For more information and advice, you can find training classes with The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training scheme. Browse our full list of The Kennel Club Accredited Instructors or find a dog training club near you.