Training Your Dog to Stop Barking At Visitors
To reduce your dog’s excessive barking, it helps to teach your dog a definite set of behaviors to do when visitors come into your home so that he has fewer chances to alarm bark. Additionally, when your dog performs his new behaviors and receives rewards, he’ll learn that people coming into your home is a good thing.
Prior to training your dog to go to a spot and stay there when a door opens, you have to educate him how to “sit” or “lie down” and then how to “stay.” After your pooch has learned these skills, your training to “spot” may begin.
Look for a specific place in your home where you’d like your pet to go when visitors come to the door. If possible, pick a spot that’s at least eight feet away from the front door but still within your sight. It might be an area at the top of a set of stairs, inside the doorway of another room, your dog’s crate, or a rug positioned at the far corner of an entryway.
State “Go to your spot,” let him see his treat, and then throw the treat onto the spot where you’d like him to go and stay. Do this sequence 10 to 20 times. By the tenth time, pretend-throw the treat to make your dog begin to move toward the spot on his own. As soon as he’s standing on his spot, throw him the treat. As he catches on, you can stop making the fake throwing action with your arm and just give him the command, “Go to your spot.” Then wait until he does and reward him.
Once your dog is reliably going to his spot, change your position when you send him there. Practice cueing him to go to his spot from several angles and distances. For instance, say “Go to your spot” when you’re standing just a couple of steps left of it. After a few repetitions, move a couple of steps to the right of the spot and say, “Go to your spot” from there. Then move to another part of the room, then another, and so on and so forth. In the end, practice standing by the front door and asking him to go to his spot, just as you might when guests arrive.
Once your dog masters going to his spot, start training him to sit or down when he gets there. As soon as your dog’s rear end hits the floor on the spot, reward him with another (maybe a different) tasty treat. Then “give him another cue (you can use “Yes” or “Okay”) and let him move off the spot. Exe
cute these steps at least 10 times per training session.
Now, you may add stay into your exercise. Stand next to your dog’s spot. Ask him to sit or lie down, say “Stay” and wait for a second. When he executed your command, praise him with a cue word and give him a treat. After you deliver the treat, say “Okay” to release your dog from the stay and motivate him to get off the spot. Do this sequence at least 10 times every training session.
Progressively increase from one second to several seconds, but change the time so that sometimes you make the exercise easy (a shorter stay) and on other occasions, you make it hard (a longer stay). If your pooch starts to get up before you say your affirmative cue word, say “No” (or any cue word you’d like to represent ‘no’) and immediately ask him to sit or lie down on his spot again. Then make the exercise a little easier the next few times by asking your dog to hold the stay for a shorter time. Steer clear of pushing your dog to accelerate the progress or testing him to see how long he can hold the stay before getting up. This practice just sets your dog up to fail.
Succeeding Steps with His Other ‘Humans’
The next step in “Go to Your Spot” training is to recruit friends and family to help you conduct mock practice visits. Arrange to have someone come to the door. You will work with your dog to help him stay on his own.
Be prepared! This will likely take some time before he actually gets the drill. When you open the door, one of two things can happen.
Scenario A: Sometimes you leave your dog there on his spot while you talk to the person at the door, as if your visitor is a courier or delivery person. Your dog never gets to say hello. (However, you, the person or both of you should frequently toss treats to your dog to reward him for staying.)
Scenario B: At other times, invite the visitor in. Wait until the person sits down somewhere, and then release your dog to join you and your visitor.
When you have a friend help you with a mock visit, be sure to repeat the scenario over and over, at least 10 to 20 times. Practice makes perfect. With each repetition, it will become easier for him to do what you expect because he’ll be less excited by the whole routine—especially when it’s the same person at the door, over and over again.
Continue to recruit people to help you practice “Go to Your Spot” exercises until your dog reliably goes to his spot and stays there until you release him with your cue word. At this point, your dog should be able to perform his new “Go to Your Spot” skill perfectly about 90% of the time during training sessions. The toughest part for your pooch is to go to his spot and stay there in real-life situations; when he hasn’t been able to do a few warm-up repetitions.
To prepare your dog for times when real visitors arrive, ask friends who are acquainted with your dog to drop by randomly when you’re home. Then ask other friends who don’t know your dog well to drop by, too. With plenty of practice, your dog will be able to go to his spot and stay there, even when neither of you knows who is at the other side of the door.
Eventually, when real visitors come to your home, you can ask your dog to go to his spot as soon as they knock or ring the doorbell. After letting your visitors in, ask them to sit down. Wait about a minute before releasing your dog from his spot to greet them. You may put t your dog on a leash if you think he might jump on your visitors or behave aggressively. After a minute or two of allowing your dog to greet people, ask him to lie down at your feet and stay. Give him something to keep him busy,
If you repeat the ritual above for a while, your dog should learn to settle down calmly when you have visitors at home.