Why Do They Do That?
This is a question I often hear in class and it came up yesterday in a class in relation to doorbells. What is all that excitement about? Why do they run around like they just won the lottery? Because they did! They know that when the doorbell rings all sorts of great and exciting things will happen shortly. Basically, it means “PARTY TIME!”
You can fairly easily see why these occasions are so exciting and why some dogs go ballistic, even when they hear the doorbell on TV. If you don’t get many visitors, this is really an exciting event. After the doorbell rings and the door is answered they are generally rewarded with lots of attention and new and exciting scents. Frequently, we great our guests excitedly, especially if the visit was a surprise. We may hug them, we may laugh, and we often have a higher pitched voice when greeting our guests. All of this says to your dog “Yes, this is exciting, isn’t it?”
But somehow, even dogs who have had lots of practice with sit/stay or down/stay suddenly go blank and or deaf. How do we practice good behavior when the doorbell rings if it happens infrequently and unpredictably?
There are many approaches but I am going to mention only those that I have had fairly rapid success with. I am aiming for a quick fix here as opposed to training that is long term, such as having a reliable down/stay under even very exciting conditions.
Five Quick Fixes
- My first effort is to deliver a cherished toy to the dog only when the bell rings preferably something they can interact with for a long time. It is unavailable to them at all other times. A stuffed Kong is great for this.
- Tether the dog where he can see you and your guest, but is out of the turmoil.
- Combine the first two suggestions AND do not interact, react, or correct your dog in any way until he is calm.
- Order food delivery often! The advantage in doing this is that you have a pretty good idea when your guest/delivery will arrive. You can be ready to implement the three suggestions above. Have a special toy ready, a very comfortable place to tether them, and you can usually fairly easily ignore the commotion long enough to get your pizza safely in tyhe door. Then continue to ignore until they are calm.
- And last but not least, implement a plan to “flood” them with the stimulus. In other words, hire a neighborhood child to come over and ring your bell repeatedly. Continue to do whatever you were doing with no change or even indication that you heard the bell. If you were washing the dishes, continue on. Let them go as crazy as they would like while completely ignoring them. Sound crazy? Basically you are setting up a situation in which they will become inured to the stimulus, which in this case is the bell.
These are all “quick fixes” and are not training. Ideally, we would train a solid “sit/stay,” “down/stay” or “park it.” But in a pinch , try these suggestions and let me know how they worked for you.