For most owners of dogs that bark at anything around the front door, life can be difficult. The line between a warning or alerting bark and continuing to make noise is hard to know how to deal with.

For some owners, the issue might be complicated by the breed choice, i.e., if you have a Chihuahua, Dachshund, Schnauzer or Yorkie, I personally guarantee barking!   

The first challenge is identifying why the dog barks and at what, in order to find the right approach. Are they alerting you that there is a stranger on the property, or attempting to chase people away, or just excited that there is a visitor? 

Here are some things to try before calling a dog trainer:

For those pups that are alerting, let them do so for a moment and acknowledge with “Good alert.” Then, as in all cases of barking, teach a Quiet or Hush command and call them back to you away from the door. Praise good behavior and add positive touch.

In the excitement of seeing new people, leash your dog and have them Sit by your side for a greeting. Greetings may include giving your dog treats or attention from the visitor.

Under no circumstance should the dog be allowed to jump on the guest. Redirect attention to you with food and add a Stay command to the Sit to ensure compliance. Quiet command may need to be reinforced. People can pet the dog or treat only when your dog is behaving. 

For shy dogs trying to chase people away, also have them Sit by your side but do not allow strangers to pet. Have them ignore your dog while you remain calm.

Begin desensitization away from the door, bringing dog and guest into a sitting area, keeping your dog by your side. Once guests are settled and dog is calm, bring the dog to sniff guest and have them offer treats but no touch.

For people, dogs or cars and other objects that continually go past your door or windows that cause barking, you may have to begin a desensitization program outside to make sure they become familiar with those things. You can also make sure that front blinds are closed or your dog does not have access to the door or window.

If you cannot get the dog under control, remove the dog to an area where they cannot see whatever the cause is, including removing them until guests are actually in the house and settled down. Most dogs are better after the initial excitement of arrival and are quieter when they go to say hello when people are seated or already there.

Calm guests will also help reduce your dog’s excitement. Never bring a dog out to say hello unless they are quiet for a few moments, once again assuring that you are rewarding good behavior and not bad.

Be consistent and keep trying, as this is a difficult behavior to correct, especially if they have been doing it for some time.

If all else fails, then call in a trainer.

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy.