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training question about doorbell reactivity

619 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Newtonsmom
My 18-month-old Borador Newton loses his mind when people come to the door; he pushes me out of the way, jumps, he licks and generally makes a nuisance of himself. What I've been doing is isolating him in the kitchen behind a baby gate, preferably getting him confined before the bell rings if I see a car pull in or someone walking up to the door. I'm generous with dehydrated hot dog and liver treats but he's at the point when the baby gate comes out I have to guide him by the collar and lure him with waving treats under his nose to get him into the kitchen. I've instructed guests to ignore him when he's barking and hopping around behind the gate until he's settled down and quiet at which point I let him come out and greet people (he can be nosy/licking at this point which I'll address later). To me this isn't ideal - I'd much rather have a friendly, courteous dog sitting calmly waiting to be greeted than a nutball behind a gate barking and demanding attention. I'm getting ready to start mat work to reinforce self calming behavior as well as giving him a spot to target away from the door, but what do I do in the meantime? I'm caregiver for my elderly mom who has hospice staff coming in 3-4 times a week and I can't expect them to stand out on the front stoop for 10 minutes while I work on getting him onto his mat and staying there! Should I move his mat into the kitchen and continue confining him until I get a chance to thoroughly proof the behavior in a controlled way or would that create a negative relationship to the mat and just confuse the issue? I've read plenty of tips/methods for training calm greetings at the door but so far I haven't seen this aspect addressed. Obviously I can't just ask everybody to stay away for days/weeks while we're working on this or expect people to stand around outside the door in the cold waiting for Newton to decide to relax! Thanks!
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I can't offer advice based on extensive experience but I can relate to your struggle. I know it will require discipline and persistence on you part. From what I have read and understand, you will need to systematically desensitize and condition alternate behaviors. I don't feel confident expounding on the procedure but I can recommend this book:

I actually just finished that one! Which is what prompted my question - she's very concise about everything except what to do when people come to the door in the meantime before the training is in full effect.
I think you must prevent him from rehearsing the behavior until you have an assistant who will follow your instructions and present an ideal situation to train in. Moving the mat behind the gate seems like the best idea. Are you rewarding him for remaining in place on the mat or feeding when you see a guest approaching? Is he defensive or territorial or sociable and over aroused when meeting people?
We're just beginning to work on shaping going to the mat and lying down. We haven't gotten as far as a stay or adding any duration yet. I tried keeping him tethered when a person came in and having the guest ignore him until he settled but he would pretty much ignore treats, lunging against the leash to get to the person; me holding him back obviously isn't going to teach him impulse control. He's EXTREMELY friendly and eager to meet people, but he jumps up and puts his front feet on them, he licks, he's in the way while people are trying to get in the door, etc. I think you're right, Mittens - I'll continue gating him off as I have been doing and once we've got a solid down and stay on the mat I'll add the front door. I think I'll definitely have to enlist the help of a couple people once we get to that point. I just don't see any other way to really nail it down.
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