Strangers, Visitors, Intruders: Teaching Your Dog The Difference (and When It’s OK to Bark)

Dog barking can be frustrating for us humans, because we’re (somewhat) reasonable creatures — we know when to be quiet and when to speak up. Dogs? Not so much. They look to us for cues. That said, some dogs can be easier than others to train, for several reasons.

  • Breed: Some dog breeds lend themselves to training, while others take more time and patience. Some trainers list shepherds, collies, Doberman pinschers, retrievers, poodles and sheepdogs among the “smartest” breeds. They tend to be easier to train than hounds, beagles, bulldogs, chow chows and huskies, for example.
  • Age: You can teach old dogs new tricks, but the older a dog is, the more he’s set in his ways. Studies have shown that older dogs learn slower than younger dogs, but they are able to retain what they learn as long as younger dogs. Puppies have notoriously short attention spans, so before they’re six months old, they can be frustrating to train.
  • History: Rescue dogs that have unknown histories can be difficult to train, although some trainers might argue that puppies are much more difficult to train than an older shelter dog. For example, if you bring home a shelter dog that goes straight for your couch, you can bet her previous owners allowed it. If your house rule is “no dogs on furniture,” you’ll have to exercise patience and consistency to teach her your house rules.
  • You: And then there’s us and how we affect our dogs! Your training methods — or lack thereof — may be the root of your problem dog. If you’re nervous, anxious, angry or negative while you’re training your dog, he’ll pick up on your mood. If you’re inconsistent with your training and corrections, you’re confusing your dog.

Barking at Intruders vs Strangers vs Visitors

How to train your dog to bark at intruders: Occasionally, we want our dogs to bark, like when there is a threat from an intruder or trespasser. Research has shown that a loud, barking dog can be as much of a deterrent — and sometimes more of a deterrent — to a home invader than home security alarms. A survey of 86 burglars in Idaho, for example, revealed that home invaders were less intimidated by a home security system (many admitted they knew how to disable them) than they were a big, barking dog. A dog’s main job, from his point of view, is to protect you and your home; he’s a perfect companion to your home security system.

How to stop your dog barking at visitors: Sometimes we want our dogs to bark once and then be quiet. For example, dog barks can be much more effective than door knocks and doorbells. Expecting Amazon, FedEx or UPS deliveries? Who better to alert you when it arrives than your dog? One quick “woof” lets you know you’ve got visitors. The trick is to train your dog to understand his job when someone knocks at the door, and to understand when his job is done.

How to train a dog to stop barking at the door on command: And then there’s the moment when a friend arrives, you greet them at the door, and your dog jumps, barks and embarrasses the heck out of you. How do you get your dog to stop barking and jumping when your visitors arrive?

How to Control a Dog’s Barking

Your dog wants to protect you and your home; it’s in his genes to be the protector of the realm. Your job is to help him understand the difference between threats and friends. One method for training a dog to bark at intruders begins by teaching him the bark and quiet commands.

Training a dog to bark at strangers

First, be clear on what you want to achieve here — do you want to train a dog how not to bark at strangers, or do you want to teach the dog to stop barking at strangers when you issue a command?

  • Set the stage for something that will trigger him to bark — have a friend knock on your door or ring the doorbell, for example.
  • Just before your dog is about to bark — watch his body language — give the bark command, “speak,” or whatever word you choose.
  • When he barks, reward him with a treat.
  • Practice this train-treat-repeat method every day, and each day add triggers.

Training a dog to stop barking on command

Here we offer tips for how to teach a dog to stop barking on command. We don’t advocate preventing dogs from barking because that’s how they communicate. Your job is to train a dog not to bark when you issue a command.

  • Set the stage for a trigger bark, or give your “speak” command.
  • Let your dog bark, press the BarxBuddy ultrasonic trainer, and wait for him to stop (it should be immediate).
  • As soon as he stops barking, say your “quiet” command, give him a treat and praise him.
  • Reinforce this practice with your dog so he learns that it is OK to bark at people he doesn’t know, but he has to stop when you issue your command.
  • You can also use this method to train him to bark/not bark when he’s protecting your property.

Tips for Controlling Dog Barking at the Door and Visitors

If your dog goes overboard with excitement when she sees someone, whether during a walk or coming through your front door, here are a few tactics you can use to curb her enthusiasm.

  • Keep your own greetings low key: Don’t encourage your guest or visitor to respond to your dog’s excitement. Teach the dog to sit and stay when people aren’t around, so she will know the “sit” and “stay” commands when people are around.
  • Try a distraction: Some trainers keep toys near the door and encourage dogs to pick them up when someone is at the door. Dogs can still make noises with toys in their mouths, but they won’t bark.
  • Tools you can use: The ultrasonic BarxBuddy device will work on your walks as well, and here’s a bonus: It works on other dogs too. If you are out and about and encounter a barking dog, you can use it to calm the dog. The BarxBuddy training device is intended to be an audible distraction for your dog. Press and briefly hold the “ON” button to distract your dog, then give the quiet command.
  • Use your commands: If you’re on a walk, and your dog barks at passersby, use your “quiet” command and change your path away from the passersby so they are out of your dog’s eyesight. Your dog will quickly associate barking at walkers, cyclists, and other passersby with being removed from their sight.
  • Reward good behavior: Remember to reinforce good behavior with rewards — words of affirmation, a light treat, or a scratch behind the ear.
  • Be consistent: Dogs can become easily confused if you are inconsistent with your commands. If you give corrections in one situation and then let a similar one slide, your dog won’t understand. Dog training takes patience and consistency.

For More Advice on Dog Training

Learn more about the BarxBuddy ultrasonic training tool, which is designed to help you stop unwanted behaviors from your dog using a humane, safe and effective training device.

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