Who should answer the door??
(Contributed by trainers Brenda and Andy Ray of Simcoe County Ontario)
Many dog owners tell us they don’t mind their dog barking when someone comes to their door. It’s seldom because they have trouble hearing the doorbell or knock. They associate their dog’s barking with the natural guarding and protective instincts many owners appreciate in their dogs. But if they understood what barking at the doorbell meant to their dogs, they wouldn’t let it happen.
In a pack it’s the leader’s obligation to assess intruders to determine if they’re friend or foe, safe or dangerous and determine when and what action is warranted. The rest of the pack waits to back up the leader’s decision.
When your dog feels it’s his job to answer the doorbell or knock, the sound triggers an instant shot of adrenaline that fuels a frenzied reaction even from a dead sleep – a jump start alert, barking to summon the rest of the pack’s attention and race to the door. Often the barking, whining, jumping up, toy fetching, anxiety driven excitement doesn’t end when you’ve completed your security check and decided it’s safe to let whomever is at the door enter. It carries on until your dog decides it’s safe to stop.
To a dog the doorbell can signal a life or death situation. Anyone approaching the pack has the potential to bring danger. So every time the doorbell rings this scene repeats. Your dog’s response will be the same whether it’s the Avon Lady or the Axe Murderer at the door. Your dog can’t tell the difference! In this human world, that little dog brain isn’t the one that’s best suited to decide whether an alert is warranted or not. Your brain is! It’s cruel to put your dog in that position.
It’s important for the human pack members to take on the responsibility of stranger assessment at the front door and to make sure the four-legged members understand they aren’t needed for the job. Let them do what a dog does best - defend the leader, not be the leader!
Remember it’s not just a simple bark at the doorbell. To your dog it means so much more. Do you want your dog burdened with that kind of responsibility?