Does your dog bark at strangers no matter how many times you try to stop them? Here are a few things that might be behind their behavior.
If your dog barks at strangers, you may be at your wit’s end trying to figure out why and how you can stop them. Many dog owners end up feeling that their dog lashing out at strangers is an inevitability – you can train them to do everything else, but the dog will still chase the mailman every morning like clockwork.
There are a couple of reasons why a dog might bark at strangers. Depending on the reason, you might have to take different steps to curb their behavior.
Is Your Dog Acting Territorial?
Your dog might bark because of territorial instincts. In this case, your dog will probably bark at strangers only at home. If you’ve got the kind of dog that behaves themselves on walks, but flies into a rage when the mailman shows up, you’ve got a case of territorial instincts.
The strength of territorial instincts may differ from breed to breed. Dog breeds that were bred to be guard dogs are more likely to show territorial behaviors, simply because they think they’re “protecting” the house.
If your dog acts out because of territorial instincts, those behaviors usually die hard. Some experts suggest using distraction techniques in order to prevent barking as it comes, instead of trying to get rid of the behavior itself.
If your dog begins showing warning signs of aggression when they see a stranger, try to get their attention before they start barking. Encouraging calm behavior also helps. Try petting them or throwing a ball.
Above all, if your dog has territorial tendencies, try to implement measures when you see a stranger approaching or when they begin to show warning signs of aggression. By the time they start barking, you might have a harder time stopping them.
Is Your Dog Afraid of Strangers?
In this case, the best thing you can do is have your dog interact with people in a safe, controlled setting. Maybe bring over a couple friends who’d like to meet them and ask them to be gentle and careful with your dog.
If you do this, remember to reward your dog whenever they manage to interact with strangers without barking or acting aggressively. Not only will this teach them not to bark through positive reinforcement, but it will also help them create positive associations about interacting with people.
Like any fear, a dog’s fear of strangers can be worn away with time and safe exposure. As their fear reduces, so will their aggressive behaviors toward strangers.
Is Your Dog Overexcitable?
On the other hand, your dog may like seeing strangers a little too much. In this case, they’re probably barking because they’re just so excited to see all their friends. Nevertheless, this is usually a behavior you’ll want to curb.
Like territorial behavior, overexcitable behavior is more common in some breeds than others. In general, breeds with high energy, like beagles or labs, are more likely to jump on guests when they arrive.
If you trained your dog by rewarding them for socialization, they may bark when they see strangers because they’re expecting treats. In this case, it might be best to ignore their barking. Failing to reinforce behaviors that were created through positive reinforcement will usually extinguish them.
On the other hand, your dog might just be that excited to see other people. In that case, you might want to use calming techniques when they meet strangers. Try training them to sit on command when they become excited.
As with aggressive barking, it’s important that you use these calming measures before your dog starts to bark. After they start acting out, it’ll be difficult to get their attention long enough.
Teaching your dog not to bark may seem like a hopeless enterprise. However, it is possible to get your dog to behave themself around strangers. The first step is understanding why they bark.