Front Door Etiquette

It’s remarkable how a normally relaxed dog can suddenly become an aggressive maniac at the sound of a doorbell.

  • There is no amount of yelling, leash jerking, or punishment that will help because dogs see any response from their owners as validation of their behavior.
  • Dogs should instinctively look to their owners for a behavioral cue in all situations. But door chargers get so caught up in chasing off intruders that they forget to ask “Mother may I?” before launching an assault.

Out-of-control canine doorbell enthusiasts need a reliable structure, reinforced by food, so they can focus on their leaders and follow orders.

  • As the benevolent dictator you can set your dog up for success with slow and deliberate baby steps.
  • Learning to “place” will be the first lesson.
    • Locate a rug or mat about 10 feet from the door.
    • Start with a treat bag on your waist (loaded with tasty morsels) and a 6 foot leash on your dog’s collar.
    • Say “Mangler, place!” in an authoritative voice, as you lead him toward the rug, all the while baiting him with a treat.
    • When he arrives at his “place” give him the reward, along with your hearty congratulations. Repeat hundreds of times.
  • Once he has the hang of placing, you can teach him to “down” before giving him the food.
    • When he’s reliable at that step you’ll require him to stay down for increasing lengths of time before rewarding him.
    • When Bruiser can stay in “place” for about a minute, raise the bar again by walking to the door and knocking lightly or even opening it and ringing the bell.
    • If he leaves his post he should be lead back and required to lie down again before getting his treat.
    • Avoid verbal reprimands; dogs think of scolding as a paycheck.
    • Repeat this drill until your dog understands that rewards only follow close attention to the boss.
  • Next, the final frontier:
    • Quietly hold the leash as a friend or family member knocks outside.
    • Say “Rambo, Place!” as you show him the treat and lead him to his rug.
    • Require the same performance as always before allowing him to have the treat.
    • Repeat hundreds of times, gradually increasing the intensity of the knocking/doorbell ringing.
    • When your dog is able to perform with 90% reliability you can graduate to using real visitors.

The Manners Minder from Premier Pet Products ( is a remote controlled treat dispenser that can make all of this much easier.

  • Use it to teach the “place” command.
  • Long term this gizmo will make it simple to reward Lassie for holding her place from anywhere in the room.

This method works because it’s fun. You and Bowser will have reached the promised land when he can stay “placed”, reinforced by occasional treats, for as long after your guests’ arrival as you want. Friends who dislike being intimidated, mauled, and body slammed will thank you.

In order for your dog to succeed you must prevent confusion and back-sliding by keeping the process simple. Throughout training he’ll need to be kept in another room when guests are expected. Don’t put him to the ultimate test of a real live stranger at the door until he’s really ready.