Dogs have a natural instinct to guard what they believe is their territory. They consider it their duty to warn other pack members (which includes you and your family) of intruders. Indeed, many people value their dog’s ability to warn them of people entering their premises. However, this dog barking can often be excessive and become a nuisance to you and your neighbours. There are two main ways to manage excessive dog barking of this type:
Training your dog to be quiet:
When you see your dog barking excessively at visitors we often find ourselves disciplining them rather than praising quiet behaviour. We are also often inconsistent when we apply this discipline. Consequently, our dogs do not develop any learned behaviour around when and where barking is allowed. Here are a few tips on training your dog to be quiet:
- Each time your dog barks at a passer-by, after several barks, praise your dog for informing you, then gently ask him or her to be QUIET. If they remain quiet for a few seconds, praise them. You may need to show them a very tasty titbit initially to help them concentrate on you and calm down. Give them the titbit the second they are quiet and slowly increase the amount of time they have to be quiet before giving them the titbit.
- If they continue to bark, raise your voice or use body language to strengthen the command, but praise them as soon as they are quiet.
- It will take a few sessions (depending on the number of visitors you get!) but, over time, build up the duration of time you expect them to be quiet. You might find it useful to count out the seconds as an added means to hold your dog’s attention away from the passer-by.
- Always be consistent- many attempts to train a dog to be quiet fail through inconsistency.
- NEVER reprimand dog barking. Only reprimand them for disobeying your command to be quiet. But the second they obey, praise them warmly.
Conditioning your dog to see visitors as a pleasurable thing:
In addition to teaching your dog the ‘quiet’ command, it is always good practice to condition your dog to accept visitors as a pleasurable experience, thus removing the ‘threat’ perception that triggers your dog to bark. Fully socialising your dog with as many different types of people as possible should be a priority at an earlier age (see our article How important is socialisation?) for hints and tips about this. The behaviour article My dog hates the postman looks at specific techniques to help condition our dogs to one our most frequent visitors – the postman and delivery men.
Also see our related article Barking When Left Alone.