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in Boston Terriers, Training and socialization

How to stop my boston terriers from barking at the doorbell

  • October 18, 2018
  • By MaggieLovesOrbit
How to stop my boston terriers from barking at the doorbell

Journey in training my dog to stop barking like mad at the front door

Do you know what the hardest thing about training is?  It’s actually doing it.


Until the behavior you’re looking for changes.

Maggie’s become a hellion screecher.  Today I almost fell off my chair.

Truth be told I wanted to dismantle the doorbell.   Unfortunately after a 2 minute debate with my partner I realized that was not an option.

A few weeks ago – fellow blogger to two boston terriers shared her training tips on how to stop her two from freaking out when the doorbell rang. She has the blog “A Dog Walks Into a Bar” and lo and behold she did this same training with her two Bostons.

You know what I did with that article.  I read it.  I shared it.

But I did NOT apply it.

Boston Terriers are not known to bark.  But for some reason Maggie does now and Orbit follows.

In fact it’s gotten worse.  She goes from zero to 100 in the matter of 1.2 seconds.   Maggie FREAKS out when the doorbell is rung.  She literally does this very high shrieking bark almost frantic as if she’s about to lose everything she has and then she runs to the door and paws at it until its open.

Is my Dog Sensitive to Sound?

One of the things we wondered about was if Maggie had any sound sensitivities.  There’s a few events we question.  When she was maybe 9 weeks old we watched a scary movie.  It was louder than usual during the suspenseful parts and we could see she was troubled by the sound.  She started clampering and running around on the sofa from what appeared to be from fright.  So we stopped the movie to calm her down and resumed at a much lesser sound level and she was fine.

When she was about 16 weeks old we took her to Denver.  We stopped at Red Rocks around noon to do some sight seeing.  The band that was playing that evening … decided to do a sound check.

Of course it was loud.  They were a rock band.

If I had not had a tight grip on Maggie’s leash I would have lost her.  She started yipping and barking almost shrieking and tried to run away from the sound … which at Red Rocks was coming from everywhere.  We were where the audience would have been sitting halfway up.

Realizing she was leashed she climbed Jason and all the way up to his head.  We carried her out at that point as far away from the stage a we could.

Later that summer …. we were walking downtown at the Marina.  Seaworld which is approximately 2 or 3 miles away over the water … was having their summer fireworks.  Maggie had the same reaction like she did in Denver.

From then on we knew she didn’t like loud sounds.

And we worked around it.

We don’t play the music very loud at home, nor the TV.  It’s not a big loss we’re not loud people anyway.

But I never did get her hearing tested and wonder if I should have.

Irregardless she is still barking at the door.

I think the Universe is trying to drop things on my head because I was browsing Instagram earlier reading some training tips and found Kaelin from All Things Pups video of when she came to visit.

The training is condensed to about 60 seconds.  And she made it look so easy.

You can view that video below.


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I probably get 20 DMs per week about how to stop barking at the door and asking me to make this video so here it is!! . ? I know that a LOT of you reading this deal with this issue and I can’t even begin to tell you how far teaching a “place” or “go to your bed” command goes in teaching your dog proper boundaries and proper greetings of house guests or strangers knocking/ringing your doorbell! . ? If you need help with this, the training process goes like this: . 1️⃣ Have treats or another high value reward ready that will be more motivating than the sound of someone at the door or entering the house. . 2️⃣ Have a friend or family member go outside and knock on the door or ring the doorbell. . 3️⃣ As your dog(s) runs to the door barking, redirect him to “go to your place”, “go to your rug/bed” – whether that be a mat, rug, bed or whatever you want to use. . 4️⃣ DO NOT lure him to that spot in the beginning. Just point to the area with a treat in hand and see if your dog will figure it out and go on his own. Only then, if your dog does not go on his own, should you lure them there. I always strive to see if the dog will figure it out on his own before resorting to an easier step! . 5️⃣ If you must lure your dog, take one step at a time towards that place/rug/bed (pointing at that area the whole time) until he makes the connection and goes to the bed. . 6️⃣ Make him sit and then give him a treat. . ❗️There are going to be varying degrees of difficulty with this command to make it more and more effective for real-life situations. . ❗️If it’s too stimulating for your dog to start with the added distraction of the person at the door and the sound of the doorbell/door knock, begin with zero distractions and master the “place command first. . ❗️THEN, when this habit is ingrained, begin to implement more and more distractions and levels of difficulty. For example: . ➡️ Person knocking ➡️ Person ringing doorbell ➡️ Knocking and ringing ➡️ Person walking in the door ➡️ Person walking inside and greeting you ➡️ Person walking inside and greeting your dog . ? Tag a friend below who needs to see this!

A post shared by Kaelin Munkelwitz ? (@allthingspups) on


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Our meeting with Kaelin clarified that what I need to do was to

  1. Work on our “place” command

  2. Work on  counterconditioning the girls to not react when the doorbell rings and instead associate it by running to their “place” and rewarding them with treats.

How do I train the dogs to stop barking at the door when I’m the only one home?

Ideally to truly practice this… I’d need another pair of hands and I was home alone.

I was stumped.  I grabbed a cookie and pet the girls while I thought about it.

There are two scenarios that happen right now.  Guests come over and ring the doorbell.  Of course we have to open the door – and the girls get excited and jump all over them.

Or the other scenario is when I never answer the doorbell because it’s almost always the UPS person or a solicitor.  And I don’t open the door for either.

So I pulled out my handy dandy Puppy Training Handbook.  I bought this from Amazon and the author is in fact the same Kaelin who came to our home.


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A post shared by Boston Terriers Maggie & Orbit (@maggielovesorbit) on

How to train my dogs to come to me when the doorbell rings

I work out of the house and my office is on the other side from where the front door is.

In previous scenarios the dogs would bark, and I would walk to the door, put my hand on it to acknowledge the door and walk away.

I didn’t say a word during the process.  No look, no touch no eye contact.

It worked for a few months.

But I realized it still communicated to Maggie and Orbit that they were doing a job.

They would bark and I would come to the front door.

They were literally  being validated for their barking.

“I’m such a great guard dog” they must have been saying to themselves.

Two different approaches to stop my dog barking at the door

Because I’m literally a nerd I did some reading both in Kaelin’s book and online to understand how to approach this.

Classical conditioning

Classical conditioning means I would give my dogs an association between two stimuli. In the case of the doorbell or other “arrival” stimuli, you’re going to convince the part of your dog’s brain that controls emotion (the amygdala) that someone ringing the doorbell, knocking on the door, or walking up your front steps makes absolutely wonderful stuff happen.

I could save the best most high value treats for this occasion.

It requires a helper to ring the doorbell and as it rings … to give Maggie a treat.

We’ve tried this but she’s still not liking the sound of the doorbell.  I can literally see her flinch.

After doing some reading I realized I was starting out this exercise right UNDER the doorbell.


I just need to back up to a further position or decrease the volume of the doorbell.

The point is I need to get her desensitized to the sound and have her look to me for treats.

Then… after we have mastered that level … to start increasing the distance between her and I so that she comes to look for me when the doorbell rings.

Mostly Operant

Alternatively, I can choose a training approach that focuses on operant behavior from the start, by simply teaching Maggie that the doorbell (or knock) is her cue to do a specific behavior, such as her place command like Kaelin trained us.

But … I need to focus on practicing this in different rooms in the house such as when I’m in the office.

My job in this case when I have no plans to answer the door is to give her the place command in the office and reward her with a treat when the doorbell rings so that she doesn’t’ bold out of the office to the hallway while madly shriek barking at the same time.  Yes it’s enough to turn your hair gray.

Things I’m telling myself that I need to remember.

I should not budge from my position.  If she breaks her place …. I’ll wait for her to come back and sit next to me while the doorbell is ringing so that eventually she’ll realize that a ringing doorbell while we’re in the office means we don’t have to answer the doorbell because yummy treats are in the office not outside.


Halloween is literally 11 days away and the doorbell will be ringing for two hours straight

A year ago we turned the lights off and left the house to avoid the doorbell.

These are very easy solutions but it doesn’t address the problem of Maggie barking at the doorbell.

In any event with halloween being so close … I decided to start the training I was supposed to do a year ago and do regularly – again today.

Notes from the training journey

Day 1:

Teach them a new place – all the way at the back of the dining room as far away from the doorbell as possible.  We did this for about 3 minutes.  I then opened the door and rang the doorbell.  We went back and forth a few times but … they got it and held their place.  They watched me walk to the door, ring the doorbell and walk back to give them treats.  It was about a 20 minute session.    I’ll try again tomorrow and update the post with our progress.

Day 2: 

I have a bowl of small treats at my desk.  So now when the doorbell rings I call them back to the office … and treat them when they are sitting on their bed.

Day 3: 

Having treats handy I’m learning is key in this journey.  I’ve placed three different small treat bowls around the house.  One in my office, one by the back french doors and one in the living room so that I can reward them for going to their various “Place” locations.  This is because I don’t have a helper to ring the doorbell and I’m just training them when the opportunity comes.  Or when the mailman comes (that seems to set them off too).

Progress notes – when the doorbell rings they aren’t barking for as long a period of time as they are now looking for where I am….

Day 4 and 5

I’ve been in the office with the two dogs when the doorbell rang.  Orbit still does the alarm bark but now Maggie is looking down the hallway and looking at me she’s not sure if she should go out to the door or if she should stay with me and get treats.

Day 6

Earlier this week Maggie got Hives.  This is the 3rd time she’s received it.  The vet has provided prednisone and advised Benadryl.  Apparently Maggie is reacting to an allergy trigger in the most inappropriate way and it could be anything causing it.

I started to think about what might be causing it and reading about cortisol levels and how when they are elevated the body might be over reacting to the most normal things.

Concurrent to this spending time with a trainer, doing some deep reflection, and some reading I realized … I had NOT walked my own neighborhood in full for almost a year.

See the reason was that I was afraid of running into the family that owns the boxer that bit my first dog and she died from those bites.

They used to have a certain time in the morning they would walk.  But their schedules started to change.  And I’d start to run into them almost 80% of the time I was outside it was weird.

So I had a very short route I would walk and I realized …. I was deeply afraid and now projected that onto my dogs especially Maggie.

They also were robbed of the pleasure in smelling the neighborhood like they used to.  And probably why they because so territorial at the house.

So I put my big girl pants on and took them for a 2 mile walk.  We changed up the route.  And we explored streets that we had stopped exploring.  We took it slow.

It’s almost as if the girls were just waiting for me to come to that realization especially Maggie.

She walked great that day.  She didn’t pull.  Even when an off leash neighborhood dog crossed our path she didn’t react she just looked at me for guidance.

There was some construction on another house… it was loud – and Orbit was startled.  So we sat from a distance so she could soak it in and we continued our walk when she relaxed.

When we got back to the house – they were tired.  They slept.  And the doorbell rang when the Amazon guy dropped off a package.  And they didn’t bark.

Day 7

It occurred to me I could turn these walks into great socialization practices too.  So we walked at noon to the local grocery and retail area.

We even walked by the dreaded house where the boxers live.  To my shock the woman of the house came home right when we were across the street which meant she had to open the gate.

The same gate her boxer broke when he got through to bite Zoey.  I watched her enter and close the gate behind her because I didn’t want her boxer to come barreling out towards us.

Unfortunately where they live is where I have to intersect to get to the local shopping area.

In any event we had a great walk.  Things we did were:

  • Stand by a busy intersection.
  • Weave around and do figure 8s around poles and columns by one of the stores.  Basically just teaching them to pay attention to how I was walking and follow me.
  • We walked through the Halloween store.
  • Sat outside Starbucks so they could practice table manners.
  • Pit stop at Petco to pick up some treats.
  • Walked by the grocery store where people were pushing carts.  Orbit tends to get jumpy when a cart is pushed next to her but we worked on her just observing them and then we continued on.

All in all it was 2 miles.  The girls came home.  I even picked up some new stuffed toys from Petco but they were so beat they get it a soft tug and decided it was naptime.

So far they haven’t been on alert at what is going on outside the house or barking at the door or the neighbors.  So my takeaway today is that being outside the house has helped them inside the house.

Keep in mind we would always go outside but to the local dog beach.  So now with this new focus I’m re-familiarizing them and myself of our neighborhood.

Day 8 and 9

Unfortunately we did not get any neighborhood time.  We joined our friends for a morning 3+ mile hike and then hosted our pack walk on Day 8.  And Day 9 we went to the beach for the walk.

Day 10 and 11

I’ve moved my laptop and I’m working out of the dining room so I can be by the girls as they sleep on their bed that is pretty much in line with the door.  There’s a lot of commotion outside which is causing them to be more alert than usual.  But by being close to them I’m able to give them an uh-uh before they start to bark or right when they do – and then place them on their mat to give them treats.

Tonight is D Day and I’m pretty sure the doorbell will be pretty loud tonight.  I’m hoping we will be able to use tonight as a good training session to either redirect them away and not react when the door bell rings.  I’ll update this post tomorrow.

So do they still bark?

It’s the day after Halloween.  And I have to admit they barked just as much.  For the the first half of the trick or treater’s it was pretty bad.

My partner wasn’t home yet so I’d have to answer the door to a group of very rowdy loud young children which…. we didn’t practice … with the dogs so not only was the doorbell ringing there were small mobs of aliens, butterflies, superheros and unicorns at the door.

Towards the end of the night my partner was home so there was a little more help in getting the dogs set up so they didn’t screech at the door.

Honestly in hindsight it’s probably really difficult to get them to stop this if there isn’t a second person helping me desensitize them and redirecting them to a new behavior.

Today Amazon came to drop off a package and it set the girls off again.  So… I’ll continue training and in a month or so do another follow up post to report on how we’re doing.



Hannah Zulueta and her two dogs Maggie and Orbit

Hello, my name is Hannah and I dance with my dogs.

I am a Boston Terrier Breed Advocate.  I started this blog because there isn’t enough space to tell our story on our Instagram.

My mission is to bring Boston Terrier dog parents the best, most accurate information to help your dogs live happier, healthier lives.

I have two Boston Terriers of my own. Maggie is my socially awkward heart dog while Orbit is my shadow and soul dog.

You won’t read about cats here, but you will get a fairly large dosage of articles dedicated to this wonderful breed to help you learn more about them or provide practical tips as you raise your own. Read more about us.

By MaggieLovesOrbit, October 18, 2018
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