What is it About Doorbells and Dogs?


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.)