How To Stop Your Dog Barking At People
If you have a dog that likes to bark at people, then you already know how much of a nuisance it can be!
But regardless of whether the barking is caused by an enthusiastic greeting or a guarded defensiveness, the problem is one of the most common difficulties dog owners face, especially with certain breeds of dog who are prone to this sort of behavior.
Perhaps the most challenging aspects of this problem is that it isn’t always easy to train them out of this behavior immediately – and the harder you attempt to change their behavior at that moment (with yelling, force, or any ‘effort’), the more likely they are to continue.
So what can you do about it? Well, let’s take a look at a few of your options.
When your dog is barking, it’s essential to stay calm and keep your cool.
If your dog is barking out of fear or defensiveness, then any tension or anxiety you feel will only be detected by your dog, and this will reinforce their belief that the person or situation is some kind of threat and that there must be a good reason to bark!
So, always do your best to stay calm and relaxed, so your dog will ultimately learn that there’s no reason to feel fear, defensiveness, or over-excitement towards the person they’re barking at.
A common mistake people make is to yell at the dog to “be quiet!” or “stop barking!”, but all this will do is positively reward your dog, and make them more likely to do it in the future.
Why? Because your dog interprets your yelling as joining in, which confirms to them that they’ve been engaging in the correct behavior all along! Therefore, it’s crucial to never reinforce bad behavior when it comes to correcting a problem (and this applies to virtually any problem you could be having with your dog, too).
Ignore The Barking
As difficult as it may be to ignore your dog while they’re barking at someone, you need to ‘ignore’ the behavior because any attention you give (either good or bad) is only going to reinforce the behavior you don’t want. So this means you need to ignore entirely – no touching, no speaking, no acknowledgment at all.
Eventually, your dog will become quiet at some point. When this moment comes, reward with a treat and praise.
With repetition, patience, and time your dog will gradually learn that a positive reward comes when they’re not barking, and they’ll eventually learn that the sooner the barking stops, the sooner a reward comes. Ultimately, your dog will no longer persist with their barking at all.
At certain times, it isn’t going to be possible to ignore the barking – especially if your dog is very persistent and won’t stop barking for several minutes or more. In these situations, it’s useful to have some kind of distraction that you can use to divert your dog’s attention.
Fortunately, you can also use this as a training method, too. All you need to do is give your dog a task that they’ve already been trained to do. For example, tell them to “lie down”, “go to bed”, or “sit”. If your dog is already well-trained to perform these commands, then there’s a good chance this will be enough to distract them from the barking. In many cases, they’ll perform the task and stop barking afterward.
However, if your dog won’t follow these commands just yet you can always use a chew toy, or some kind of interactive toy to take their attention away from the barking. But you need to careful with this because you don’t want your dog to learn that this is a reward for the barking behavior.
Teach Your Dog To Bark On Command
This may sound like the last thing you’d want to do if your dog keeps barking at people, but it’s certainly a useful way to gain control over your dog’s barking habits.
Once you have trained your dog to bark on command, you’ll also be able to teach them the “quiet” command at the same time.
When your dog has stopped barking, give the command “quiet” and reward them with a tasty treat.
Over time, they will learn to associate the command with the treat, and they will learn to still follow the command even when barking at someone, so you can use it to stop them before they get too carried away.
Keep Your Dog Tired
A tired dog rarely has the energy to bark at people, especially not for long periods of time. So if you make sure your dog has received plenty of physical exercise for the day, there’s less chance of boredom, and they’ll be less likely to engage in unwanted barking.