Why Does a Dog Bark?

The trick to managing a dog's behavior is to understand the motivation behind it.

Barking dogBrought to you by Better Dog Behavior  

Reason for Barking: Alerting
Drawing attention to a strange person, animal, object, sound, sight or smell can all be causes of a dogs alerting by barking. Barking can also be a precursor to a fearful retreat or a prelude to an offensive attack.

Case A: In the case of your dogs trying to alert you to something new and strange, let the animal investigate the source. Go with him to see what he’s barking about. Do not stroke, pet or coddle him in any way at this time, and don’t prolong the investigation. When you determine that the source of the dogs concern is harmless, quickly divert his attention to some activity he enjoys, such as a fetching game or a play session with a favorite toy. Be matter-of-fact and focus on the harmlessness of the source by acting in a natural manner. Smile, laugh, be happy and touch the person or object in question so the dog sees that it does not represent a threat. The more casual you are in circumstances such as this, the quicker your dog will be to cease his worry and concern.

Case B: In the case of a stranger, praise the dog for alerting you to the persons presence. Many dogs, for example, react aggressively toward delivery personnel. When a delivery person comes to your door, act happily and assure the dog that the person is a friend. Have the dog on lead when you go to the door and have him sit beside you as you greet the person. Give the delivery person a biscuit and ask him or her to give it to your dog as soon as you give the signal.

Be firm with the dog and have him sit quietly beside you without barking or lunging at the person. As soon as you get the dog under control, change your tone of voice to one of friendliness and indicate to the dog that this person is a nice one. Once the dog shows signs of calming down and accepting the persons presence at the door, have the person give the dog the biscuit. Do not have the person pet the dog at this time. Simply praise the dog for being a good boy and behaving in a polite manner.

After several encounters like this, you will see a change in how your dog accepts the delivery person once you give the OK signal that the person is friendly. When this occurs, you can begin to let the person pet the dog as the  dog sits politely by your side. However, when you get to this stage of training, be firm with the dog so he clearly understands that polite acceptance is the only behavior that will be tolerated. Praise generously when he does this.

Case C: In the case that the stranger is not welcome at your door or on your property, praise the dog for alerting you to his presence and then deal with the stranger in an appropriate manner. Do not expect the dog to exercise polite manners with someone who is not welcome in your home, but be sure that you have control of the dog at all times, because a dog that threatens people and/or bites them is not acceptable.

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Behavior and Training · Dogs