The topic today is front door guarding. Should you reward or not? Many dogs offer guarding behaviors around their homes and the front door. Today, I had the opportunity to work with one such dog that anytime anybody passed by the front of the house, the dog would immediately erupt in barking, and my clients told me that it was tough for them to control. They were having a hard time helping the dog to understand that the dog needed to stop barking.
So I laid out a plan for them, and that’s what I’m about to give you guys. This is the plan that I used to help the dog to understand what we wanted to do at the front door.
So the very first thing that we want to do at the front door with a dog that has a guarding instinct nine times out of ten is to praise that dog for doing its job. Sometimes if your dog is guarding, it can be a little bit of a thankless job because we expect them to do it. But it would be good for your dog to know that some barking at the front door is quite acceptable. Would be bad guys have been sent away because dogs have good guarding behaviors at the front door. So if you have a dog that is guarding at the front door, you should at least praise them for doing so.
Okay, now here’s where it begins to get slightly tricky. The next thing is, you actually would want the dog to be quiet. Because now you’ve acknowledged that there’s something there. You’re probably checking it out, and you don’t need your dog to continue to bark. So there are several ways that you can go about doing this.
Please Be Quiet
Traditionally, the way that I have done this with my dogs is I have used a sit command. If they were to continue barking past the sit, I would use my training collars to get them to stop. But if they did sit, I would reward the dog. This may not work for everybody, and it isn’t easy sometimes to create this. However, the next tip might work for many more of you.
So with this particular dog, we had a leash and training collar on, and there was a staircase about 3 feet away from the front door. So as soon as they were done praising the dog for doing a good job of barking at the front door, they guided the dog up onto the steps. When the dog got on the steps, it interrupted the barking enough, and then they began the process of positively reinforcing the dog for being on the steps.
That was it. That’s all that we did at the front door. We just showed the dog that it was good to bark. And then when we told them to go to their spot and it was good to sit there and be quiet and get more reward. I did one more thing and back to that in a moment.
Won’t Stop Barking
Now let’s say that your dog is barking, and they can’t or won’t stop. The first thing that you have to do is make sure that you have a leash involved in the equation. I know you are probably saying, “Doesn’t my dog need to be able to do this off-leash”? Yes, but that means that you’re training consistently to help the dog understand the difference between barking. There is appropriate and inappropriate barking. You’ll use the leash to guide the dog up there. Actually practice for about three weeks in a row every day. Maybe when a family member comes home, they can agitate the dog a little bit to get the dog to bark. The dog will begin to see the pattern there.
If you keep up the reinforcement, then the dog is going to see that it should bark when it sees something. And it should be quiet and be nice and calm when told and put onto their spot.
So back to my client’s dog. After that, it was going pretty well for us. I went outside, and I began to agitate the dog to get the dog to bark. And instead of me stopping the agitation, when I saw my clients call the dog away, I continued the agitation. And if the dog stayed quiet where my client had put them on the stair steps, they would continue to reward the dog for doing that.
Then, at that point, they released the dog from the steps and encouraged the dog to bark again. When the dog did that, they praised the dog, putting it back on the staircase. The dog became quiet, and they rewarded again.
So front door guarding, should you reward or not? The answer in my book is, yes, you should reward. But you should put a limit on how much barking your dog can do. I hope that’s useful for some of you.