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Does your dog bark at the door?
This is a very common issue for many dog loving households. Barking at the door means that a dog is trying to create distance between them (or their house) and whoever it is at the door. This is their first warning that they might escalate their behaviour further if the intruder does not back off. This might be triggered when hearing a car door close, footsteps outside, seeing someone approaching through a window, on hearing the letterbox, doorbell or knocking. It is also common for this behaviour to occur when the dog is in their own garden with people walking past. For some dog owners it is not an issue but for most it is. In some cases, the barking will turn into behaviour we do not like to see resulting in bites. A classic victim of this is delivery people as they are unknown to the dog and have a job to do so walk directly up to the house.
Did you know you could face up to 5-years in prison?
In 2020 a high court judge ruled that dog owners could face up to five years in prison if their dog attacked a postal worker. This was the result of a Royal Mail worker being bitten by a dog with no history of aggression but clearly reacted to the door. The worker, unfortunately, lost the top of a finger whilst delivering a letter as the dog grabbed and bit down on their fingers. A prison sentence is also possible if a dog were to bite any person. If a dog is deemed out of control without biting a prison sentence can still be imposed. Controlling dogs in public includes private places such as your own home or garden under the legislation. A dog can be classed as out of control even if someone is only worried that a dog might injure them or potentially their animal.
5-Ways to prevent barking at the door
Here are some ways you can prevent or help with barking at the door. If you are already experiencing aggression on top of the barking, you would benefit from professional guidance. If your dog has already bitten you definitely need professional help and have a duty of care to ensure your dog does not bite again.
- Ask visitors to call ahead: whilst you are trying to get over the door issues ask visitors to call ahead of their arrival. Let them know you are training your dog and ask them to avoid ringing the doorbell. To deal with unannounced visitors place a sign up on your door asking them to please avoid knocking and to call your number instead.
- Teach an alternative behaviour: teach your dog when they hear the door to go onto their bed, CLICK HERE for a good example of this. If your dog already reacts to the doorbell a good tip is to change the sound of the bell and start from scratch. Clicker training can really help with this method and your dog will need to understand a good go to bed cue.
- Knocking means nothing: teach your dog that when they hear knocking it doesn’t mean they need to charge at the door to anticipate a visitor. To start this, you should knock on other surfaces around the house first ensuring your dog is looking at you to begin with. This will ensure they know it is you knocking. Every time you knock, and they don’t react you’re going to scatter down some treats for them to eat. Repeat this a minimum of five times per day and when they are relaxed begin knocking on the front door. You can also do this with the doorbell in addition to point number 2.
- Avoid vigilance: if your dog likes sitting and watching out of windows or pacing the parameter of the garden fence this needs to be interrupted. This is your cue that your dog is going to bark at someone, and they need to be redirected to another activity OR prevented from having access to these areas. Preventing access is vital to ensure that they do not keep learning to bark. They learn that barking works because ultimately the person leaves after the delivery.
- Get a post box: if your dog already has an issue with postal workers, get a post box so they don’t hear the letterbox going every day. This keeps everyone safe including your dog. It also stops them from learning that barking is successful in getting people to leave.
Make sure everyone is kept safe by having secure locks on front doors and back gates. This will stop those dogs that launch at doors from accidentally opening them. If your dog has these issues in the back garden, you also need to ensure you have a robust fence which is also high enough that they cannot jump over it.
When your dog is not bothered by a bell or knock anymore start to practice with people arriving at your home. Up until this point, you should ask visitors to call for their arrival.
If you are struggling on how to do this check out this great instructional video from the brilliant Emilly Larham.
If you need more help take a look to see how we can help you or get in touch.