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Is your dog’s door manners causing chaos in your home? Fear not. With my simple 5-step method, you can train your dog to have impeccable door manners in no time.

I’ve been there.

A simple knock at the door or ring of my doorbell sends my two Mastiffs into a frenzy of excitement and anticipation, wondering who is on the other side of the door. 

Unfortunately, the by-product of the chaos triggered by the sound at the door is the dogs blocking the doorway, and when the door can be opened, greeting the person on the other side with a flurry of dog hair and slobber. 

Not the most enjoyable welcome.

Using my simple 5-step method within my 3-part framework, you can teach your dog to go to a designated place when they hear the door knock or doorbell and only greet your visitor when you say it’s ok. 

Let’s dive into this short training so you can finally reclaim control around your front door.

Front Door Manners Framework – The 3 R’s

As I mentioned, there are three phases to my front door manners methodology. I call them the 3 R’s.  

REWARDS, RESPONSE, RELEASE

The 3 R’s are the framework around the 5 steps to training your dog.  These are the strategic components you will want to keep in mind as you move through the 5 steps with your dog.  

We will discuss these more shortly, so keep reading…

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1. Determine Your Dog’s Place

Decide where you want your dog to go when they hear the doorbell or hear a knock at the front door.   

Perhaps you have a dog bed close by that you’d like your dog to lay on.  Or maybe you prefer your dog go into an adjacent room.  Or perhaps you want your dog to go into a dog crate that you will secure when guests come over?  

Woman with two mastiffs on dog bed, Door Manners for Dogs: 5 Easy Steps to Reclaim Control Over the Chaos

Whether it’s a dog bed, a crate, or a separate room, it really doesn’t matter.  

You want the place to be somewhere your dog is comfortable in and conditioned to.

I’ve decided I want Junior and Sulley to go lay on the large Big Barker Dog Bed in my living room when they hear a knock or ring of the doorbell. 

Ok, once you’ve decided on your place, now we need to teach your dog to go there on command. 

3. Teach “Go To Your Place” & “STAY”

Here’s where the fun starts.  

Over a series of sessions, you are going to train your dog to this place and stay there. 

Before you start giving a command, I want you to simply reward your dog for getting on the bed or going to the place.  Every time they do, give them a treat. 

I recommend super yummy treats for this, not just a piece of kibble.  

Find a treat that is small and soft and able to be consumed largely without a lot of chewing. I like to use some leftover steak pieces or chicken, tiny bites of string cheese, dehydrated or freeze-dried liver

Feel free to use a clicker if your dog is conditioned to one and would like to speed up this process. 

Simply click and treat when your dog gets on the bed. 

After a few iterations of this you can pair the action of getting on the bed with your command.

I usually say, “Go to your bed” to my dogs, however, you can use the word “place” or “crate” or “mat”… whatever makes the most sense for you. 

You may want to point to the bed or place as well.  

Honestly, neither the command nor the pointing will matter in the end as they will be phased out when we start to condition your dog to the sound of the door, but for now, it doesn’t hurt to make a fun game out of getting on the bed or going to the place. 

If you have more than one dog, I recommend you work through this step separately at first before you bring your dogs together. This ensures they both understand the game and aren’t just following one another. 

Once your dog has figured out that going to his bed or this place on command brings amazing rewards, I want you to increase the length of time they are on there with the expectation that they stay there until they are released. 

You can use the command “stay” if your dog knows it, or simply start to use a release command like “ok” or free.” 

Ideally, you can get a good 30 sec – 1 min in the place before you release your dog. 

Phase 1: Rewards

Before we move on, remember I mentioned the 3 phases? 

REWARD, RESPONSE, AND RELEASE.

The first is reward

The key to getting your dog to reliably go to their place when they hear the trigger sound is making that place beyond awesome for your dog to be in. 

One of the easiest ways to communicate awesome to a dog is through the use of treat rewards.  

So reward is the first critical phase in the process of training your dog not to run out the door when you have visitors. 

Let’s move on now to step #3…

3. Pair Trigger Sound With Going To Place

Because we want to avoid any and all chaos at our door when people come over, we need to train our dog to hear the trigger sound (a knock or doorbell) and immediately go to his place.  

I know that sounds complicated, but trust me, it’s a very simple process to understand. 

It’s called conditioning, or more specifically, classical conditioning and it’s actually how your dog learned to bombard the front door and maul your guests in the first place.  

Conditioning involves two parts – a stimulus and a response. 

The stimulus in this situation is the sound of a knock or ring of your doorbell.  The response is what happens immediately after. 

Your dog has learned that as soon as the door opens he’s greeted with a friendly visitor or freedom.  That is the response. 

What we want to do is change the response to the stimulus.  

Phase 2: Response

This is the second phase of our three-phase framework.  Response. 

In this step, you will reinforce the response of going to the bed or place at the sound of the doorbell or knock by immediately giving a treat after the trigger sound. 

I do this by making a knocking sound on the wall and then asking my dog to “go to your bed.”  

When he’s on the bed (or even making his way towards it) I immediately provide a treat.  Do this several times – make a knocking sound, point, or ask your dog to go to their place, then give a treat. 

You do not need to say “good boy.” Conditioning isn’t a reward-based training method, it’s a RESPONSE-based one. 

When your dog hears the sound, they go to the place. That action is the response and is reinforced through treats.  

Once your dog is responding by going to his place or bed at the sound of the knock, move up to knocking on the door from the inside.  This mimics a more familiar sound of the knock occurring on the outside, so it’s a stronger stimulus for your dog.  

Repeat what you did before.  As soon as your dog hears the knock and then gets on their bed, present the treat.  Again, work on increasing the amount of time on the bed with a “stay” or a slow delay of giving your release word. 

You will continue this process moving up to the sound of the knock and eventually the doorbell from the outside and repeating the process of treating when the response is going to the place. 

Two quick tips before we move on to step #4.

First, have treats near your door or on you at all times to practice this, or just in case you have a real visitor at some point during your training.  

You want to be sure to consistently reinforce the response of going to the place every time your dog hears the trigger sound. 

Second, if you have someone that can help you, even better.  

My kids help me with the knocking so that I can be quicker with my treats as the distance increases between the door and my dog’s bed.  

The faster you can deliver the treats, the better, so having another set of hands to help goes a long way.

Plus, you will need this other person for step #4, so let’s move on to that. 

4. Mock Greetings at the Door

Now that your dog is starting to pair the sound of the doorbell and knock with the response of going to his or her place, you want to increase the intensity of the stimulus to more closely mimic when you actually have a friendly stranger or visitor on the other side of the door. 

The easiest way to do this is to enlist the help of your kids, a spouse, a friend, and even a neighbor.  

I start with my children and recommend working up to staging visits with my neighbor.

Tell your “guest actor” to knock on the door and wait.  Give your dog a treat in response to going to their place. 

Repeat this process numerous times with just the knock – I recommend having the person on the other side vary how they knock. 

Woman with two mastiffs on dog bed, Door Manners for Dogs: 5 Easy Steps to Reclaim Control Over the Chaos

So the first time, just do a knock, knock.  The second a knock, knock, knock.  The third, knock several times a little faster.  The fourth knock several times in a varied pattern. 

The point is that it sounds a little different each time and each time a sound comes from the door, your dog goes to his place and receives a delicious treat. 

Work up to having your “guest actor” ring the doorbell.  

This will be the most intense stimulus for your dog as doorbells often don’t ring near the front door, they ring somewhere in the middle of the house.  

This can be quite upsetting to dogs who hear the sound and initially can’t quite place what is causing it.  Once they figure out it means there is life on the other side of the front door, all bets are off.  

Hello, chaos! 

At this stage, you are simply having someone else on the other side of the door cause the sound and wait. When your dog responds by going to his place, you are reinforcing that response with a treat. 

Every single time.

Remember to increase the amount of time your dog remains in this place before giving them a “release” command like “Ok!” or “Free!” because in the next step, we are going to be opening the door.

And with that, let’s move on to our last and final step, step #5.

5. Practice Opening, Practice Release

Assuming your dog is ready, you can now repeat step 4 and add in opening the door.  You want to be careful at this step to work incrementally and not go too fast. 

If you don’t, the first time you open the door, all bets are off.  Your dog may decide opening is his invitation to run out the door.  

You don’t want that. 

To prevent this from happening, you want to work in baby steps.  

In the beginning, after my guest actor knocks on the door, I start by just jiggling the handle, but I don’t open the door. 

Next, following a knock, I introduce opening the door, but only about 1 inch, all the while reinforcing with treats when their response is getting on the bed. 

After several successful iterations of this, I move up to opening the door wider and then fully so the dogs can see, but not greet, the person on the other side.  

At this stage, I am simply opening the door, but not releasing my dogs until the door is shut again.  

You want to continue this in incremental steps until you have full control over your front door and your dogs are reliably responding to the trigger sound (a knock or doorbell) by heading to their designated place.

When you are ready, you can allow the “guest actor” to step into your home.  

Again, do this incrementally to avoid chaos at the door. 

Following a knock at the door and you opening it, start with a fake conversation at the door with your guest actor but don’t let them in. 

Change up your voice.  Pretend it’s an Amazon person or a neighbor. Laugh.  Take a package and say thank you.  Then shut the door and release your dogs.

The next time, invite the person to step into the house one step and repeat what you just did. 

Make these visits super short at first and work on duration over several sessions.  

And finally, invite the guest actor in and close the door.  When you are ready, you can release your dogs to say hello.  

3-Phases For Successful Front Door Manners for Dogs

This brings me to the third and final phase of my 3 phase framework for training front door manners.  

Let’s review quickly what we’ve covered so far…

First, we discussed using a reward to make your dog’s place the most wonderful place in the world.  A place they want to go and stay in. 

We did this in two steps – first we determined where we wanted our dogs to go when someone came to the door and then we used a point or the command, “Go to your place” to set up a series of opportunities to reward the behavior of going to the place.

Door Manners for Dogs: 5 Easy Steps to Reclaim Control Over the Chaos

Remember that at this stage we also incorporated a short “stay” as well. 

Then we discussed response – pairing the sound of the doorbell or knock with the action of going to the place and reinforcing that with a treat.  We did this in two steps as well. 

We started with a fake knock on a wall and worked up to a knock on the door and then the doorbell. 

Our goal was to pair the trigger sound with the response of going to the place.  And then after many sessions of this, we introduced a guest actor to knock and ring the doorbell from the outside.  

Phase 3: Release

Now we are in the final phase, release.  

In step 5, you learned how to put all of this together incrementally while adding in the action of opening the door and greeting your guest. 

You learned that your dog should stay in his place until you give your release word that you began to use in step #4.  

I recommend something short and choppy like “Ok!” or “Free!”

This is the signal to your dog that they are free to leave their place and do what they want, usually greeting your visitor. 

Force-Free, Fear-Free Dog Training

Keep in mind, that with this training methodology, your dog has had the freedom to choose the entire time.  We haven’t forced our dog to do anything.  

This is the absolute magic of conditioning and positive dog training!  No force or fear is ever required to get the behavior we want from our dogs.  

And with that, Congratulations!  

You have learned how to keep your dog from running out the door and taught your dog front door manners like a pro!  

If you would like to learn more great tips and strategies for training large and giant breed dogs, click here.

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