If your canine companion is taking his guardian dog role too seriously, you may be tired of hearing him bark at the slightest noise indicating the presence of a stranger at the door. Luckily, there are several strategies to reduce the behavior of barking at the door bell.
Record the noise of your door bell using a tape recorder. The purpose is to have your dog listen to the noise several times a day so the noise becomes irrelevant. Because through associative learning your dog has learned to pair the door bell with guests, the noise presented alone with no guests will help unlearn this association.
Play the recording at a very low volume throughout the day. Adjust the volume accordingly. If your dog barks at the recording it may be too loud. The process of exposing your dog to a stimulus he usually reacts to by making it less intense is known as desensitization. As your dog gets used to hearing the door bell, you can gradually increase the volume.
Feed your dog a high-value treat every time you play the recording and the door bell noise is heard. This will help change your dog's emotional response towards the door bell. The process of changing your dog's emotional response is known as counter-conditioning. Basically, after some practice, your dog should no longer be worried about the door bell announcing guests, but rather should look forward to the noise because it now means a treat is coming.
Ring the door bell repeatedly throughout the day as you toss your dog treats. Your dog may bark a few times as the actual door bell noise will sound different from the recording. However, after some time, he will soon learn to associate the noise again with treats so he will be looking in anticipation for treats rather than going into a barking frenzy.
Ask some volunteers to come over without ringing the door bell. Tell them instead to call you when they are almost at your door step or set up a specific time when you can expect them. Open the door and have your guests toss your dog some treats. Repeat several times using different guests; the more the better. The goal is to train the dog that great things happen when people come over.
Progress by asking your guests to come over and ring the door bell. By now your dog should have learned that door bells announce the arrival of tasty treats and that guests are treat-dispensing machines. With all these new positive associations, your dog should be barking less and looking for treats more.
Minimize your dog's chances for barking at the door bell. Keep your dog away from the door when you are out or close the curtains when you are unable to supervise. The more your dog rehearses the behavior of barking at the door bell the more the behavior will reinforce. On the other hand, the more your dog is rewarded for not barking at the door bell, the better chances the quiet behavior will repeat and establish overtime.