Ask a Vet Archive

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  • Why does my dog bark every time our phone rings or someone comes to our door? She is fine at dog parks or pet stores, but as she has gotten older (now 7), she has shown a few incidents of aggression towards dogs and a few people. How can I correct this problem? Would it be a good idea to adopt a second dog to help my current dog with separation anxiety issues whenever I have to leave her alone?

    Dogs bark at the doorbell for a couple of different reasons. The first and most common is territory protection. In this case, your dog has learned to associate the doorbell with someone or something coming into the house.

    The barking is their way of informing whoever is at the door that they are approaching the dog’s territory. This can go back to pack behavior when a dog barked to warn the other pack members that something was approaching their den area. The barking generally stops when the dog realizes that whoever is approaching their pack is of no threat. In this case you and your family are part of the pack and when you show that everything is okay, they take the cue from you and then stop barking.

    The second thing that can sometimes be a part of this is that the dog is looking for attention. They associate the doorbell with the fact that you or your family stop paying attention to them and start paying attention to whoever is at the door. They then bark to keep your attention on them as well. The barking at the phone is usually part of the second issue. They have learned to associate the phone ringing with the fact that you are going to be paying attention to the person on the phone and not them. The barking is then their way of making sure that you pay attention to them as well.

    The aggression towards people and other pets can be a serious problem. In many cases they are overreacting to a perceived threat to them or to you. This can lead to aggression in certain situations. The best way to correct this is through a behavior modification plan that is specific for your pet.

    I recommend that you talk to your veterinarian about both the aggression and separation anxiety. In many cases these behaviors are related and helping to address one will help the other. Your veterinarian can help you come up with a behavior modification plan. This may include some type of training for you and your pet that can help diffuse the situation.


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Behavior