Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 15, 2016

What is it About Doorbells and Dogs?

Posted at 09:08AM - Comments: (20)

Before you jump all over me, I totally understand why MY dogs jump and bark and run in circles when MY doorbell rings; the sound is a reliable predictor of visitors, both strange and wonderful. Most of the time when my doorbell rings, my husband or I get up and things start to happen.

But how do you explain that the majority of dogs not only respond to the sound that their own doorbell makes, but also to the sound of doorbells that are CLEARLY not in their home, as when a doorbell rings on TV? You can’t tell me they don’t know the difference; most dogs can tell the difference between the cellophane on a new sponge versus the new bag of treats – from the middle of a sound sleep! And doorbells on TV don’t usually predict any sort of behavior from the humans who are watching TV; we don’t get up and greet people or accept packages when the TV doorbells ring!

Even more mysterious: Why do dogs leap up and sound the alarm to the sound of TV or radio doorbells that sound completely unlike any doorbells they’ve EVER heard before?

Anyway, I’m not sure who hates doorbells more: me, or Otto. I was thinking about this because for the past two mornings in a row, a package delivery person rang my doorbell at precisely 7 a.m. As it turns out, on both occasions I was awake (though my husband was not), and I could immediately start shushing the dog storm that went off at the sound.  (To be fair, Otto starts it, but usually shushes quickly. Woody and my niece’s 6-month-old puppy, Rosie, who is visiting for training, start slower but settle more slowly, too.)

I had fairly prompt success the first time, but on the second morning, the delivery person first hit the doorbell, and then paused to punch some beep, beep, beep buttons on his handheld computer, and then (apparently) scan the package and then some more beep, bop, beep, all of which seemed to drive Otto, my delivery-watchdog, into a near rage. Why someone who delivers dog food, treats, toys, beds, chews, and more to our door makes my dog so bananas is a blog post for another day; I’m just trying to suppress the full-on “must terrify the delivery person on the other side of the fence” behavior before adolescent dog Woody fully signs up for his own delivery watch-duty.  

Do your dogs go nuts at the doorbell – even TV doorbells? Watch this video and then report back! (#5 is Otto’s kryptonite, although # 9 set him off, too.)



Comments (20)

My dogs only reacted to #5 which sounds like our doorbell. I don't think they can tell the difference.

Posted by: wags2work | December 18, 2016 6:44 PM    Report this comment

My dogs think noises coming from the iPad are scary. They all react to doorbells like #2 and #5 when they're on the TV but stop barking and running towards the door if I say "It's on the TV" or sometimes just say "TV". I also use clapping three times to let them know no one will be coming into the house like when the mail person or delivery person just rings the doorbell to let me know there's a package.

Posted by: Vogelfrau | December 16, 2016 4:19 PM    Report this comment

My 10 month old lab mix Mea acts as if the doorbell doesn't exist! a knock on the door just elicits seismic tail wagging! She is very reserved with her barks, but when she lets out one of her "big dog" barks, she sounds like her 110lb father!

Posted by: wolfie59 | December 16, 2016 6:07 AM    Report this comment

All 3 dogs heard the videos, and even the door knocking one after. Not one reaction. My 11 lb. Jack Russell did look for the source, cocked his head at the computer and that was it. He is the dog who barks when the phone rings. I changed it to a musical ring and that has helped some. He also barks when the oven timer goes off. Or when the wind blows.

Posted by: Cindie M | December 16, 2016 5:59 AM    Report this comment

One of my dogs only barked at our doorbell and the doorbell on Fraiser! They seemed to have the same bell and frequency. He went nuts over the Frasier bell, more so than our own home. And he wasn't really a dog that watched TV the my other does, exceptionally carefully, and reacts to anything moving!!

Posted by: Pacific Sun | December 16, 2016 2:24 AM    Report this comment

None of my 4 dogs reacted to these doorbell sounds!! But I don't have a doorbell!! If someone knocks on the door they will all react but are learning to sit and wait for a treat. My dobe and rotty go to the kitchen and I put up a gate and they are quiet. Most people are told not to knock and just come in... my dogs are much less reactive.

Posted by: BoEtZoey | December 15, 2016 7:14 PM    Report this comment

The doorbell always sets my dogs off, yet I just played your sound clip and they were all asleep and stayed that way. I have to admit that they went to the groomers today and were so overstimulated that it didn't register with them at all.

Posted by: jwlindakay | December 15, 2016 4:21 PM    Report this comment

Cattle dog Cora even barks when the FedEX or UPS truck drives past the house! She hears the truck six houses down the street, doesn't matter if it stops here or not, I must be warned of approaching danger!

If a visitor is coming in, I ask through the screen door if they mind if she greets them -- all the shrill barking stops and the stubby tail and rear end wiggle with joy if she can go out and meet them.

Posted by: Rusata | December 15, 2016 3:47 PM    Report this comment

YES to all of the above! And my dogs bark at the garbage truck as well! They want to inspect anything leaving our home as a potential error in judgement by their humans!

My neighbor friend has even tried a gentle verbaluzation of "knock, knock" and still...bark, bark is returned.

They have me trained so well, that I can decipher their barks. Who is on their morning walk, a new dog, postman, UPS/FedEx, friend or foe! This is a good thing. Depending on vorasciousness the tone tells me how fast I need to break away and attend to the visitor!

Too funny! Thanks for this post!!

Posted by: boxermom11 | December 15, 2016 1:00 PM    Report this comment

I have two dogs that are very different. One is a rescue and he's a polite wonderful dog as long as he's on a leash. When the delivery people come to the door he barks like crazy. The rescue male also barks when the house creaks. The dog I've had since she was a puppy is very confident. However the doorbell does insight excitement from her and she does run to the window beside the door to watch them. She does not try to chase the person away by barking, in fact she'd welcome that person to stay because she knows they have wonderful things in store for her. She's always watches them with joy but gives up when she sees they are leaving She loves both people and boxes I'm not sure which she likes most.

Posted by: Tpai | December 15, 2016 12:08 PM    Report this comment

When you figure the door bell out, perhaps you can figure out why my dog howls and yips and sound exactly like a coyote when he hears an emergency siren on TV. And it's mostly the sirens on old movies, which don't sound the same as today's sirens.

Posted by: mjk | December 15, 2016 11:33 AM    Report this comment

Delivery person had just left when I read this and watched the video. This delivery person ALWAYS leaves a dog bone on the box, never rings the bell but audaciously (to Maggie the dog) drives down the drive. But that doesn't matter ANYBODY who comes down the walk or drives in sets off a frenzy of leaping at the door and sidelights (deep scratches in those now). Maggie didn't bark at the bell sounds on the video - mild growl at #6. She knew no one was outside.

People who have been here numerous times know she will be OK once they're in and sit down. We put her in the garage out of courtesy if we know they're coming; she will still bark for awhile. We have full length windows and sidelights in the front and have tried putting paper to above eye level on them. She tears it down. Tried desensitization unsuccessfully because we don't have any friends willing to come and be repeatedly traumatized nor any people with FedEx or UPS trucks. We didn't know the proper things to do when she was a pup and it would have helped.

Posted by: jotuna | December 15, 2016 11:12 AM    Report this comment

Our doorbell broke years ago and we never fixed it - don't need to. Our doxie alerts us if someone pulls into the driveway or walks up the front steps. But, he also tells us if a leaf falls in the front yard! The postal carrier, the UPS and FedEx trucks are his arch enemies. His attitude is that he is keeping us safe from murdering maniacs on a daily basis. He can't understand why we are not more appreciative of his efforts!

Posted by: MorgansMom | December 15, 2016 10:45 AM    Report this comment

I think the doorbell/knock vs. plastic wrap or whatever other sound are coming from two different response areas in their brain. One is an alert/threat response where a heightened state of fight or flight is necessary, and the other is a response to food stimuli. One instinctually demands a response of some type, the other is a more discretionary response- I know carrots don't appeal to me, but if it's a cookie, I am on it!

Posted by: tmatt | December 15, 2016 10:29 AM    Report this comment

My older girl Ellie, who died recently, ALWAYS barked at doorbell. When she was younger she reacted to ones on TV, too, but figured it out and stopped. The younger dog Maggie, always was right there in the middle of it all - also barking - but now that Ellie is gone, Maggie doesn't get excited about the sound. She knows when someone is here, however, even before the doorbell and is right there to check it out.. No barking from new pup Beth (well, not at the bell anyway), and neither one was interested in anything on the video.

Posted by: MJC | December 15, 2016 10:24 AM    Report this comment

My theory involves the successful chasing off of the "visitor" - mailman, delivery person. It becomes a game. The doorbell is simply a "clear the venue" alert to the dogs, like before a race in the olympics. "Ding" "Ding" "Ding" The downhill racers are about to start - get off the track! That's the alert that something is about to happen. That "something" is the opportunity to chase off the offender, which the dogs do successfully every day to anyone who dares approach the front of the house. Funny thing though - I also do not have a doorbell, so MY dogs seem impervious to the sound - even on TV or on the radio. No reaction at all. Door knocks are another thing... entirely... that, and the sound of the UPS truck's engine.

Posted by: LynnM | December 15, 2016 10:20 AM    Report this comment

My schipperke was a barking fool when it came to live and TV doorbells, people knocking. My basenjis, since they don't bark, perk up and run to the gate by the front door or look out the window when someone comes to the door. They do not react to TV doorbells and did not react to any of the doorbell sounds on the video.

Posted by: rlkosek | December 15, 2016 10:17 AM    Report this comment

Doorbells, both live and TV, almost always send our household into a furry frenzy! Our Min Pin goes nuts (like Otto) but we try to calm him down before our Boston Terrier follows suit. Every year I am glad when Halloween is over because of all the TV commercials with doorbells!

Posted by: Jenn | December 15, 2016 10:03 AM    Report this comment

My dogs only reacted to #9 in the video. It sort of had a familiar ring. One dog's head popped up but she immediately settled. OTOH the cat was very alert and seemed ready to head for the hills!

Posted by: ktzndgs | December 15, 2016 9:56 AM    Report this comment

#5 and #9....and we don't even HAVE a doorbell. Yet, the TV version always sets them off.

Posted by: cspasser | December 15, 2016 9:51 AM    Report this comment

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