Adding the doorbell to the training


Do these exercises in this precise order. They are planned so that even the most bark sensitive dog can succeed. So do not try to advance to the next step too quickly.

And do not do these exercises in a different order. If you progress too soon to the next step, it is really difficult to go back and try to make the previous behavior as strong as it needs to be for the goal of this training. By skipping ahead, your dog might not succeed at all in what we are trying to teach him.




In this second part, the idea is to condition your dog to the meaningful stimulus that is the doorbell. Your dog is going to be desensitized to the sound of the doorbell so that he does not get over-aroused. So the next step is going to be to teach the dog not to react in any way when he hears the sound of the doorbell. This stage can take a lot of time. But you have to make the necessary repetitions because this stage is crucial later on. Why do dogs bark at the doorbell?

When the dog has been conditioned that the sound of the doorbell equals guests, he will most likely lose it. The slightest hint that the dog has learned to associate with guests coming over works as a trigger for him. This could be the sound of the doorbell or even the sounds of footsteps outside the door. The dog might even bark because he has noticed that by barking, the owners open the door a lot quicker, to not disturb the neighbors. Our job is to countercondition the dog to a point where the sound of the doorbell is meaningless and the dog will stay calm. This is easier said than done, so let's get started!



Record the sound of the doorbell

Record the sound of the doorbell on to your laptop or phone. The recording should be a couple of minutes, so push the doorbell every few seconds for a minute or so when you are recording it. This way you have a longer recording that you can use in your training. When recording the sound, the dog shouldn't be home at that moment.

I recorded about a minute of audio where I pushed the doorbell every few seconds. I then transferred the audio onto my laptop and saved it on a CD-disc, multiple times in a row. The disc then had about six times worth of one-minute audio, making it easier for me when I do not have to play the disc over and over all the time. This makes for an efficient tool in my training.


Desensitizing the sound

Get yourself ready by cutting small pieces of high-value treats. Put the treats so that they are easy at hand and you can quickly get more when you are running out of treats in your hand. Start the audio recording on the lowest possible volume. If your dog reacts strongly to the sound, take as much distance from the device playing the audio as needed. A good distance is where your dog does not react, or at most just glances in the direction of the sound.

Place the device playing the audio close to the door from where the sound normally originates. This way your dog learns, that the sound always comes from the door or close to it. In case your dog reacts to the fact that the sound comes from that specific direction (even if you have the sound as low as possible), you can move the device to the other side of the room.

When playing the audio, feed treats to your dog constantly. The idea is not to make a big number of it, so avoid talking to your dog while doing this exercise. Follow your dog's reactions while feeding him his treats. The dog should not get aroused or stop eating the treats to listen to the audio. He should be focused on eating and at most react to the sound by flicking his ears or glancing in the direction from which the low sound is coming from. You should do this exercise daily and when the dog makes progress, increase the volume one bar at a time.

You should repeat this exercise for about a week so that the meaning of the sound changes for your dog. Just remember to increase the volume slowly enough so that the dog does not react too strongly. If your dog starts to glance, whine, puff or stare excessively at the door or the device, the volume is too loud and you need to lower it significantly.








At this third stage, the idea is to teach your dog to go quietly to his bed and lie down. Going to his bed is something we already taught him to do without a verbal cue. Again, it is easier to use clicker at this stage, so that you can quickly tell your dog what he did right. You can train this by yourself by recording just one ring of the doorbell onto a CD-disc or phone. Record the audio so that as soon as you press play the sound of the doorbell rings. This way you can ensure that the timing of the sound is simultaneous with your dog's actions. Another option is to use an assistant to help you so that you can concentrate on your dog.


Step 1

Start close to the bed. Play the recorder doorbell sound as your dog lies down on his bed and quickly give him his treat. To reinforce him for staying on the bed, give the treat in between his front paws so that he does not have a reason to move. Throw another treat away from the bed so that your dog gets up. After eating the thrown treat, he is ready for another repetition. The device you are using should be close at hand so that you are fast enough to play the recorded audio of the doorbell at the same time your dog lies down on his bed. You can always make it easier for yourself and have an assistant that plays the sound instead. I saved the sound onto a CD-disc so that I could play the sound easily when my dog lied down.

Be patient with this stage of your training. This is a stage you should repeat until you have a dog that practically runs to his bed as soon he gets the chance. When this happens, the behavior is strong enough for you to advance to the next stage. Remember that you can not do these exercises enough. The more repetitions you get done in one stage, the more likely your dog will succeed in the following.





Step 2

Now you should start playing the recorded sound when your dog is going towards the bed. If your dog, however, gets confused by the sound, take a step back and do more repetitions of the previous exercise. Again, you should do plenty of repetitions at this stage before moving on, so that your dog is ready for the next part of your training. You know he is ready when he does not react to the recorded sound of the doorbell but goes directly to lie on his bed instead.




Step 3

At this stage, you want to play the recorded sound of the doorbell, and your dog should react by going to his bed and lie down. In case your dog reacts to the sound in a different way, by going to the door or stops to listen to the sound, for example, go back to the previous exercise and do more repetitions of that instead. Repeat this exercise until your dog immediately goes to his bed to lie down when hearing the recorded audio. When he does that, you are ready to advance to the next step.


Problem-solving: your dog does not go to his bed when hearing the doorbell?

If your dog in step 3 does not respond to the sound of the doorbell by going to his bed to lie down, he is not ready for it. Go back and reinforce the criteria in step number 2. Continue until your dog without hesitation goes directly to his bed when hearing the sound of the doorbell.





Step 4

Gradually start to move closer and closer to the door, so that your dog goes to his bed from a distance. At this point, you should start to fade your hand signal that you use to send your dog to his bed. He should respond solely to the sound of the doorbell. The reason why you want to fade away any possible hand signals is that in the next stage you should already be by the door. In case your dog does not go to his bed, there is a high probability that you have increased the distance too much at once. In our first part of this training, we did teach the dog to go to his bed from a distance as well, so it should not cause any problems. But to be sure, increase the distance with small steps.