Picture this: you're at home when suddenly, the doorbell rings. Your dog's eyes instantly light up with excitement, barking with such enthusiasm that it feels like the sound could shatter glass.
For our canine friends, barking is a means of communication. Excessive barking, however, is a different story. It may not only cause issues for you and other people, but it can also be a sign of underlying problems your furry friend may be having.
Understanding the cause of their behaviour is the first step to help stop the barking. Creating a solution that specifically addresses their triggers not only minimises unwanted behaviour but also aids them in living a happier and more comfortable life.
In this article, we'll delve into techniques that can help stop your dog from barking at strangers.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Visitors?
Dogs have a natural instinct to bark at guests, and this behaviour can be attributed to several reasons:
1. Protection and Alertness
Dogs are famous for their loyalty and their natural instinct to protect. When a stranger comes near, they may perceive it as a danger to their loved ones or territory.1 Barking is their means of notifying their owners about the arrival of an unfamiliar person, essentially conveying the message, "Hey, there's something happening here! Be alert!"
2. Territorial Instincts
Dogs have a tendency to be territorial.2 They consider your home as their space. When a stranger comes in, they naturally feel the need to establish their authority and guard what belongs to them. Barking is their way of expressing this urge to protect their territory.
Dogs also use barking as a means of communication with humans and other canines.3 It can be their way of expressing discomfort or curiosity when they encounter a visitor. It's like saying, "Hey, there's something here. I'm not quite sure how to respond."
4. Social Hierarchy
In a pack, dogs establish order. When your guests arrive, dogs may bark to assert their position and show that they are protectors of the group. It's their way of displaying their authority within the family unit.
5. Lack of Socialisation
Dogs that haven't had exposure to people during their early stages of development are more prone to barking at visitors.4 They may just be unaccustomed to interacting with individuals and resort to barking as a way to protect themselves.
6. Fear or Anxiety
Sometimes, dogs bark at guests because they feel scared or anxious.5 They may perceive people as a danger particularly if they've had bad encounters before. Barking is their way of trying to protect themselves from threats.
Dogs are social animals who often crave attention.6 And for them, any attention is better than none. When they bark at visitors, they may be seeking attention from their owners, who are likely to respond by comforting or scolding them.
It's essential to understand that not all dogs bark at visitors as a sign of aggression. In many cases, it's a natural response rooted in their instincts and a desire to protect their family and territory. However, excessive or aggressive barking can be a problem. It's crucial for dog owners to train and socialise their pets appropriately to manage this behaviour and ensure a safe and comfortable environment for both the dog and visitors.
How to Stop My Dog from Barking at Strangers?
1. Find Out Why Your Dog Barks at Strangers
Observe your dog's reactions when a guest comes over. If they’re showing aggression and behaving in a ‘stay away or face consequences’ manner, it may be due to their territorial and protective instinct or fear and anxiety. If they get too excited, they may be seeking affection due to boredom or lack of attention. Understanding your dog’s reactions and body language can be the first step in addressing their behaviour problems.
2. Put Your Dog Somewhere Else When Visitors Enter
Get ready for guests by keeping your dog in a room where they can't see or hear people coming in. Make sure it has everything your dog needs, from food to toys they can play with or cushions they can curl up in. Once your guest is settled, gradually let your dog out to help them ease into interacting with each other.
3. Be Prepared to Put the Work in With Training
Training a dog to remain calm when guests arrive requires patience and time. During the training process, you can simulate scenarios by using a recording on your phone to signal your dog to go to their mat. It may be difficult to get them to stay on their mats initially, but with patience and consistent training, it can be possible.
In addition, bark control collars and dual-purpose remote dog training collars can help control their behaviour by delivering a stimulus to the dog when they bark. You can also seek advice from a training professional to identify what specific training methods can help you and your furry friend.
4. Reward Your Dog When They’re Calm and Quiet
Dogs tend to engage in behaviours that they find rewarding. If barking brings them joy or helps them receive attention or affection, encourage them to engage in more appropriate activities than excessive barking.
5. Distract Your Dog
Excessive barking is due to their fixation on an unfamiliar person. Distracting your dog and redirecting their focus towards other things can be an effective technique to help them calm down.7
Instruct them to return to their crate using your chosen command, or if you want to try something else, you can give them alternative directions. Asking your furry friend to sit or lie down are simple tricks that can divert their attention.
If you're still in the training process and giving them commands doesn’t work, offering a fun toy may do the trick. The key here is using a preferably noise-making item that captures and holds your dog's attention.
6. Ignore Your Dog's Barking
To address your dog's barking, it's best to ignore it.8 Dogs tend to stop barking when they realise that their cries for attention are not being acknowledged. Whenever your dog stops reacting to these noises, reward them with treats. Continue with the training until they consistently ignore stimuli.
Related: How to Stop a Dog From Barking?
Keep in mind that each dog is special and what’s effective for one may not necessarily work for another. It's important to adapt your methods based on your dog's personality and requirements. While some dog owners use bark control collars, others prefer different means to train their dogs. With patience and commitment, you can train your canine companion to be more hospitable towards guests.
If the steps above are not effective, seek help from a professional dog trainer to curb your dog's barking.