As a professional dog trainer in Michigan, I encourage my clients to teach their dog that the ringing of a doorbell should mean sweet things and not something scary is about to happen.
To change your dog’s attitude of a door bell, pair the ringing of the bell with a tasty dog treat. Soon your dog will come to view the doorbell as a trigger for tasty treats and not something scary. Your dog will still bark but instead of being in a reactive, out of control non thinking state of mind, your dog will be calmer and able to think. This makes it easier to teach your dog to sit or go to a predetermined “place” upon hearing the doorbell and in return receive tasty treats.
The problem is sometimes getting enough people over to visit to ring the doorbell. So what could be a better training opportunity than many children coming over to ring the doorbell for trick or treat? To get started now, pair ringing the doorbell yourself or by a family member and give your dog tasty food treats. Get started on this before Halloween arrives.
Assuming you have a good start on this, then on Halloween night-dress your dog up in a cute Halloween costume (so children looking through the door will see what a sweet and adorable dog you have rather than a perhaps scary barking dog) and have someone hold the dog on leash in the living room but far away from the front door. When the doorbell rings this person stuffs the dog with a tasty dog treat and later rewards for calm behavior while the other person hands out goodies to children. By having your dog on leash, you can be assured that your dog cannot race to the door to excitedly greet children.
If this is too much for your dog or if your dog shows aggression toward children or adults, then instead place the dog in a different room with the door closed and reward as above when the doorbell is triggered. If it’s just too much, too soon for your dog, then lessen your dog’s stress by placing your dog in a closed off room with someone to pet and/or play with your dog and either leaving the front door open (storm door is still closed) so children do not have to ring the doorbell, deactivating the doorbell for the evening or not participating in Halloween activities this year. It is crucial that your dog not be overly stressed and for children not to be scared of a barking dog. But if your dog is ready for the challenge, this is a perfect opportunity to get some free training in for you and your dog.
To read some Halloween safety tips for you and your dog, read the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Blog post: Trick or Treat: Make Halloween Safe for Your Dog.