Training A Dog To Not Bark At Strangers

The act of barking is one of the distinct features of dogs. But, the problem with that is strangers may feel frightened when a dog barks at them because they think the dog is about to attack them. The reason why your dog may be barking at strangers is because he/she doesn’t trust somebody that he/she simply doesn’t recognize. This barking behavior is called territorial barking. Those who are strangers to your dog may not necessarily be strangers to you.

In fact, they could turn out to be a family member or a friend of yours who visit you at your home. Regardless of whether or not you know the persons your dog encounters, you will want to make sure that they will feel safe around him/her. So, with that in mind, I am going to walk you through the methods for going about training a dog to not bark at people that he/she doesn’t recognize.

(Photo courtesy of Brian Moriarty via Flickr)

Apply A Dog Muzzle

For your dog, you will want to consider applying a dog muzzle on him/her. Dog muzzles are designed to help restrain dogs from barking and other unwanted behaviors such as biting. You want to be careful not to apply a dog muzzle excessively on your dog. Only apply it strategically.

So, the best time for you to apply the dog muzzle is when your dog is most likely to encounter a stranger. For example, the best time would be when a family member or friend is expected to visit you. Another time to apply the dog muzzle would be when you and your dog go for a walk in a park or down the street where the dog may encounter unfamiliar persons.

When you are putting the dog muzzle on your dog, it is important that it is as comfortable as possible and that it allows for him/her to eat, drink, and pant freely. So, with that in mind, the best dog muzzles to use are the ones with wire cage construction.

Reduce Dog Exposure To Strangers

(Photo courtesy of Nan Palmero via Flickr)

One good way for you to restrain your dog from engaging in territorial barking behavior toward strangers is to reduce his/her exposure to them. Let’s say that your dog tends to hang near windows inside your home. Be aware that dogs can still bark at strangers if he/she see them outside, even if the windows serve as a barrier.

So, the best way for you to block your dog from seeing strangers through windows is to cover the windows with curtains or blinds. If for some reason you don’t have curtains or blinds to cover your windows with, you may want to consider using a removable plastic film or spraying a glass coating on the windows.

These methods won’t completely block your dog from seeing strangers outside, but it will make it difficult for him/her to do so. If your dog tends to be outdoors at your home, you may want to consider having him/her be in your backyard. That is because a backyard tends to be less visible to the public than a front yard, making it less likely that your dog will see strangers.

For extra measure, you may want to consider fencing around your backyard to further shield your dog from seeing unfamiliar persons. The fencing could come in the form of a man-made physical fencing or through natural means involving trees, bushes, and/or some other landscaping techniques.

Another option for you to reduce your dog’s exposure to strangers is for you to assign a room within your residence where he/she can stay while you are hosting guests. I would recommend that you apply your dog to a room that your guests may not go into during their visit to your residence, such as a bedroom. Once your dog is inside the assigned room, make sure that the room door is completely shut.

The Quiet Technique

Now I am going to introduce you to what is referred to as the quiet technique. I will explain how this technique works. If you see and/or hear your dog barking at strangers, let him/her do so around three times. Once that happen, walk up to your dog and gently hold his/her face closed and say the word, “Quiet.”

Take care not to shout at your dog when you say the word because that can make his/her barking behavior worse. After you give your dog the quiet command, have him/her sit down and wait for a few minutes. If, after a few minutes, your dog stays quite, then reward him/her with a treat. I would suggest giving your dog a soft treat such as cooked chicken, cheese, or hot dog.

If, however, your dog starts barking again after you gave him the quiet command, just repeat the technique until he/she obeys you. Dangle a treat in front of your dog so that he/she knows that you have a reward waiting for him/her if he/she obeys your quiet command.

So, practice this technique with your dog until it starts to sink in with him/her. Each time after you successfully give your dog the quiet command, gradually increase the waiting time before rewarding him/her with a treat. That will help to reinforce the behavior that you expect of your dog after having given the quiet command.

Distract Your Dog During Walks

(Photo courtesy of Tim Dobbelaere via Wikimedia)

Whenever you and your dog go for a walk somewhere, such as a park, chances are high that you and your dog will walk past at least a couple strangers. In this situation, the best way for you to prevent your dog from barking at a stranger is to use a treat in order to distract him/her whenever a stranger comes up.

Be on the lookout for signs that indicate that your dog is about to bark at a stranger. Common signs include rising hackles, pricking ears, and a change in the way your dog walks. So, if you start to notice any of these signs, immediately give your dog a treat to distract him/her from barking at a stranger.

If you find yourself without treats to give your dog during a walk, a backup tool to distract him/her with is a set of keys. Just shake the keys in front of your dog if he/she is about to bark at a stranger.

All in all, if you are finding that your dog is barking at strangers every time he/she encounters them, it is a good idea for you to use at least one of these training methods in an effort to change this behavior. What are your thoughts? Are you an owner of a dog who is having this issue? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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