3 Dog Trainer Tips to Stop Your Dog From Barking at Visitors
Step 8 of 14 in the Dogly Barking Channel
with Ayelet Berger of SabraDogTraining, Training Advocate

Does your dog bark at visitors every time someone comes to your front door?

Rest assured, you're not the only dog parent who braces yourself for plenty of uncomfortable dog barking when you have house guests or a repair person on the way.

For many dogs, it's not just strangers that get the barking behavior started, sometimes it's even family members that makes dogs bark. As a certified professional dog trainer, I can tell you this is an extremely common barking behavior.

Let's face it, dogs bark. Dogs barking occasionally is a natural part of life. But when there's excessive barking, we want to understand it and and address it.

Together we can help your dog learn to greet people calmly and happily (and have your dog stop barking at them!). So let's get started.


What to do if your dog barks when the doorbell rings

If that's the operating equation at your home or if all it takes is your dog noticing someone even approaching and your dog starts barking...

Let's talk about how to help calm your dog and teach your dog to stop barking and remain quiet when strangers/ house guests arrive.

But first, what does your dog's barking behavior look like?

Let's figure out why your dog barks

When someone is at your front door...

  • Does your dog bark but doesn't charge at house guests?
  • Does your dog bark and then retreat? Or retreat and then bark?
  • Is your dog's tail tucked? Is your dog's body staying a bit low... maybe pulling back, trying to appear small, avoiding eye contact, and generally saying "stay away"?

Your dog's barking style helps decode your dog's emotional state

If you're seeing any or all of these behaviors, your dog's body language when your dog barks at visitors is saying your dog is barking out of fear with an unconditioned emotional response.

What is an unconditioned emotional response

An "unconditioned emotional response" is when your dog is reacting in a way that happens naturally and automatically. When your dog barks, it's because he or she is fearful and anxious whenever your dog sees strangers come to your house. It's an emotional response that is not aggressive - it is a distance-increasing behavior.

Your dog's behavior and fear-barking style say your dog wants the perceived threat to go away or move away to put enough distance between them to help your dog feel comfortable and safe.


How to help your dog feel safe & stop barking

What you'll be working on in training sessions with your dog is to practice training for a conditioned emotional response that will replace your dog's fear with feeling happy and comfortable.

You'll be using positive reinforcement training techniques to teach your previously barking dog to react with quiet, happy behavior at the sight of strangers arriving and being in your house.

3 steps to conditioning your dog's response to stay calm with visitors instead of barking incessantly

#1. Pair together the sight of the person with the arrival of high-value dog treats.

This is the time to use whatever your dog considers a super high-value treat, usually food (the good stuff like small bites of chicken or delicious training treats your dog loves) although it could be a treasured ball or toy.

Save this high-value reward to use only when someone is coming to your house.

#2. Be ready to give the treats immediately AFTER your dog sees the person.

You want your dog to see the person first so the person arriving becomes predictive of the ultra-desirable reward. You want your dog to get that this person's appearance means good things happen.

#3. Have the treats in your hand, ready to throw "treat bombs" away from the door to create space.

You'll want to avoid everyone crowding in close quarters around the door, so be ready to throw what I call "treat bombs" away from the door to create space. Your dog will go in the direction of the treats and by throwing several, you'll buy yourself a moment to get over to your dog to continue treating as your visitor gets situated inside.

Practice, practice, repeat

Start by practicing with a willing visitor to get the pattern and predictability down with your dog. Your dog's ability to recognize what's going to happen when a person appears at the door should increase quickly with repetition.

Every dog is an individual, of course, and levels of fear, thresholds, and dog behavior are different for each dog but you'll get a sense of that as you practice with your dog. (Your own timing will get better too!)

If your dog continues barking during practice sessions...

Try this

  • You might not be using high enough value treats to compete with the fear on auto-pilot. Try something your dog really loves... maybe small bits of deli meats, chicken, or hamburger... whatever is extra high value to your dog.

  • You might want to give your dog more space to reduce the threat so it's possible learn. (If your dog is at or over threshold, the fear trumps your dog's ability to pay attention, learn, and process everything.) Increase the distance between your dog and the door/person.

For most dogs, learning the conditioned behavior as a dependable skill takes a little repetition, but if you stay consistent (and make sure all your family members do too), you should see that soon your more comfortable dog reacts calmly knowing what's coming. Your dog will envision a tasty treat rather than a scary threat on the way and stop barking.

If you'd like to see the brief video as I talk through all these steps to desensitize your dog if your dog barks at people, you can watch it below.


Is your dog constantly barking at visitors? Discover how to stop your dog from barking at people with these effective training techniques.

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Next up in the Barking Channel on Dogly

Other dogs bark for all sorts of reasons. Your dog's bark might appear for different reasons beyond fear in different situations.

Now that you know how to teach your dog to stop barking at people and handle their fear, you can learn more about barking dogs, each type of barking, the why behind each bark, and what to do in the guides for alert barking, excitement barking, and demand barking.

If you have any questions about fear barking and your dog, just ask in our Community Discussion. And continue in our Barking Channel where you'll learn everything you and your dog need to know about barking from our community of Dogly Training Advocates (each one a certified professional dog trainer like me)!

Or if you ever need more personalized dog training guidance, please reach out!

Ayelet Berger of SabraDogTraining

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Ayelet because she grew from rescue volunteer to one of Nashville’s only Certified Professional Trainers.

Ayelet guides you

Anxiety - Kids & Dogs - Puppies - New Dogs - Reactivity - Dog Body Language

Ayelet is certified

Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed - Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner - Family Paws Licensed Presenter - Fear Free Trainer