Does your dog bark whenever the door rings? Do they bark uncontrollably when they see a passerby or when a delivery package arrives? Is it impossible for you to stop your barking dog from barking when your guests arrive?
Training your dog to stop barking is a challenging task to accomplish. Dogs, well, it is their nature and instinct to bark when they see something that is out of the ordinary or new. But a good dog owner would never and should never resort to anti-barking devices like shock collars.
Dogs can be trained to alter behavior with behaviorist and obedience training accompanied by positive reinforcement, love, and care. Your dog will become more welcoming to strangers and house guests within a few training sessions.
But first, as responsible dog owners, we must understand the root cause of excessive barking. A dog will never bark without any reason. Knowing why the dog barks at strangers to break their bad habits is vital. There are three main reasons why a dog might display such behavior. They are as follows:
- Territorial behavior
Dogs can feel highly protective of their home and humans. They may see strangers threatening their territory, causing them to bark at unfamiliar faces. It is advised to notice the dog’s body language. Suppose your dog barks when a stranger approaches your home or yard, accompanied by a stiff body and possibly raised hackles. In that case, it is a definite sign of displaying territorial behavior. This behavior threatens the stranger and causes disturbances at home and in the neighborhood.
Sometimes, our canine companions can get excited after seeing a new face that they bark at the sight of strangers approaching them. This is common in young puppies. It happens because dogs are genuinely excited to see someone new and want to play with them. If the pup is barking at strangers with a wagging tail and wiggly butt, they may be just overcome with joy. Though this behavior is positive and non-threatening, the stranger can be caught off-guard, leaving them feeling scared as they do not have an existing relationship with the dog and are unaware that the dog is friendly.
- Lack of Socialisation
Puppies who cannot get much human interaction and attention other than their own family, for example, a Covid puppy, might bark at strangers and in new surroundings. They do so because they are uncomfortable and do not know how to act in a new environment among strangers. They are not able to trust strangers and their surroundings easily. This behavior can be a bit threatening as the dog might be barking to protect itself from harm. This behavior is often seen in dogs from a shelter or a dog that might have been mistreated or had a traumatic experience. Barking in this situation usually stems from overwhelming anxiety or separation anxiety from their owners.
Now that we have understood the most common and possible causes of the dog’s excessive barking, we must learn how to effectively stop a dog from barking at strangers and what are best training practices to control and train the dog’s behavior. Keep reading to learn various training methods.
- The silent treatment
It is essential to help your dog realize that they will not be rewarded with attention when they bark at and jump on strangers. You can practice this method by asking a friend to pose as a stranger in your home. Ensure that the stranger knows to avoid eye contact and give no attention when the dog is barking and jumping. Once the dog settles down and stops the bad behavior, the stranger can reward them with a treat. Once the dog becomes more comfortable and behaves well around strangers, increase the reward each time they greet a stranger respectfully.
- The attracting distraction method
A simple and easy way to get your dog to stop barking at strangers is by diverting their attention to something they find more attractive. For example, shaking your keys, throwing a ball or a disc, or giving them a toy. Once you have gained your puppy’s attention, ask them to sit and reward their behavior for cooperating. If this is done consistently, the dog will learn that barking at strangers does not produce a reward and that good behavior is more advantageous for them.
- Rewarding good behavior
If the dog struggles with excessive barking due to the lack of human socialization exposure is the number one way to acclimate them to human socialization and new surroundings. Invite people to your house at different times and organize playdates with other dogs and god owners, asking them to be affectionate and provide treats and positive reinforcements. Slowly but surely, the dog will begin to realize that he will be rewarded by new people with love, affection, and treats. Take your dog for many walks in different places so that they understand that strangers are not a threat, even in an unfamiliar environment.
- Preventive measures
We often hear prevention is better than cure. It is the same with dog training as well. Preventative tactics can be enforced to keep dogs from engaging with strangers. For example, if you leave your dog inside, make sure that the blinds and curtains are closed so that they are unaware of strangers coming to your house, like a mailman delivering a package or someone walking past your yard on the street. If the dog prefers to be outside, it is helpful to install a tall fence to limit your dog’s ability to see past your yard.
- The Quiet Down method
When the dog starts barking in the presence of a stranger, let them bark a few times. Then, gently hold their muzzle and say, “Quiet.” It is important to note that the owner should never use force or shout, as that produces negative reinforcement, something we want to avoid entirely. Take your hands off their muzzle. If the dog stays quiet, reward them with a treat. If they start barking again, repeat the process, rewarding them each time they stop barking. Gradually increase the time between giving treats, allowing the command to properly sink in. If holding the dog’s muzzle causes frustration, the owner can train their dogs by calmly using the quiet command and diverting their attention from the stranger by giving them a treat or snack.
- Activity is the best medicine
One of the best practices to curtail your dog’s incessant barking is to provide them with optimum mental and physical stimulation such as training exercises, opportunities to play and run, offer puzzles and lickmats, etc. A good daycare facility will provide your dog with a safe, stimulating environment where he’ll have a tiring but productive day.
A responsible and good dog owner must understand that force, loud voices and negative reinforcements should not be used to train or control the dog. After doing all the things listed above, if your, dog still behaves aggressively and creates threatening situations for strangers, guests and passersby, it is best to contact a professional trainer to break the dog’s bad behavior using the best training practices