Stop Constant Dog Barking?
August 28, 2004 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Have a new dog, about a year old... goes crazy, and barks nonstop when we have guests at our home, any suggestions on how to break this habit.
posted by mhaw to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The barking? Or, your inviting guests?

My father always trained his dogs not to bark with a firm kick in the ass.
posted by mischief at 8:16 PM on August 28, 2004

Kicking your dog when he's barking at strangers is a great way to reinforce the dog's belief that strangers around means that Bad Shit is about to ensue, which leads to him being stressed, which leads to barking. If you're going to disincent barking, I wouldn't go any farther than a blast from a squirt gun, and only after you've told the dog QUIET! and he hasn't.

More importantly, you want yer pup to see strangers as mystical never-ending fountains of goodies instead of threats. Have your guests give Mr. Pup treats -- special treats that he only ever gets from Not You, and that he loves dearly. Keep doing it. Reward and praise him when he approaches a "stranger" or allows one to pat him, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:56 PM on August 28, 2004

ROU's advice is sound. I also encourage you to stop thinking of this as a habit, and start thinking of it as a phobia, or as fearful behaviour - barking at strangers is almost always based on fear and/or insecurity (he's not protecting you, it's not protection if there is no danger, and it's not his decision who gets to come in the house, it's yours). Since the dog is new to you, you likely have no idea of its past history, it may have been undersocialized during the crucial first few months, it may have had bad experiences, or its wiring may just be a bit askew. Regardless of the reason, however, you need to address this in an organized, dog-friendly fashion (mischief's father's so-called "training" is not only abusive, but also a good way to make an already-fearful dog more likely to become a fear biter).

I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of Patricia McConnell's pamphlet The Cautious Canine (scroll down), which is a step-by-step desensitization program for fearful dogs. It's scientific and it works. I would also get her pamphlet called "How To Be The Leader Of The Pack", which is a gentle method of ensuring that the dog knows where he stands, since insecure dogs are often unsure of where they fit into the pack (barking at people you invite into your home could be indicative of both a fear issue and a lack of the dog viewing you as a clear leader), and making things very clear is reassuring to the dog. This isn't about dominating the dog or "showing him who's boss" or any of the other archaic dog training ideas (most of which are based on wildly inaccurate interpretations of canid behaviour), it's simply using methods of leadership which are meaningful to dogs in ways which encourage the dog to trust you and see you as leader, which will help it relax and trust your judgment.

You need to address this asap, because fear issues often get worse with age, and you need to address it in a positive manner, since heavy-handed approaches are exactly the wrong way to teach a dog to manage fear. Good luck, and do not hesitate to seek out a session or two with a behaviourist if you don't have much success with McConnell's program - it does work, but depending on how bad the issue really is, and your level of experience with dogs, you might need some pointers.

While you're figuring out a plan for dealing with this, it's a very good idea to have a crate in a place away from the main traffic or a dog-proofed room that you can put the dog in when guests are over. Give the dog lots of enticing treats and chew toys when you put him away, but don't let the barking at guests continue or it will become even more ingrained.

Also, get into a postive-method group obedience class and stay there, regular training is the best way to build a trusting relationship with your dog.
posted by biscotti at 10:30 PM on August 28, 2004

Is it happy/excited barking, fearful barking, or alerting you to danger barking? We adopted a dog about 5 months ago with a number of issues and its taken work, but she's overcome so much. The subtleties of what it took can be hard to describe, but if you have questions, you can email me.

Books I've found helpful--Help for Your Shy Dog (if your dog has fear/overly submissive problems), The Other End of the Leash (good info. on how simian and canine communication goes wrong, also by Patricia McConnell), and Don't Shoot the Dog (on positive training, clicker training).

If the barking is happy/excited barking, try to engage as little as possible with the dog. Try ignoring it completely after giving your command to stop/be quiet/etc. If the dog is jumping up on people or pawing at them, the human's responding body language can do a lot to communicate that jumping up won't work. Try folding your arms, turning your back, and putting your nose in the air in a snooty way. When the dog backs down, try to interact in a calm way. The minute the dog gets crazy fold your arms and turn. It takes repetition, but it works.

Is it fearful barking? What about the human behavior feeds the barking? If talking to, looking at, crouching down to the dog feeds the barking, stop doing those things. Our dog was overly submissive. Just looking at her and walking towards her was too much for her when we first got her and she would start rolling over on her back. A man crouching down to pet her made her pee. But, she would almost immediately stop the behavior when we stopped looking right at her and turned our bodies to the side. It took paying close attention to her behavior and ours, but she doesn't do this anymore and we can bend down and pet her without problems. Things that worried her that you might not expect--people wearing sunglasses or hats (especially if she had only seen that person without them before), if we were carrying things (laundry basket, book, flashlight), if we didn't seem aware of her presence. Also depending on your dog's past experience, it may not be familiar with human sounds like laughing, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose. All of those worried our dog for awhile. So people laughing, talking loudly, taking off coats, etc. might be worrying your dog.

If the dog is alerting you to what it thinks is danger, some of that can go away as the dog settles into your home. Our dog did a lot more alert barking when we first had her. Our approach was to calmly give her concern some brief attention, followed by a neutral sounding "okay". If she barked about it again, we gave the command and hand signal for "enough" and we repeated as needed. She probably barks only a quarter as much as she used to and she learned that an indoor voice worked better than all out barking. Depending on the breed, you could be dealing with a lot of instinct. Herding dogs can be territorial, so it's not just the power breeds that bark about "intruders".

Obedience school will help a lot. I would go with one that uses clicker training or other positive means. The instructor can also help you with the barking. Using hand signals with voice commands makes a big difference. Dogs understand visual cues much better than verbal.
posted by lobakgo at 12:11 AM on August 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Our dog is shy and barky around guests. Telling the guests to completely ignore the dog until she warms up to them helps a lot.
posted by hyperizer at 10:54 AM on August 29, 2004

Some vets have collars that squirt Citranella (sp?) when your dog barks - doens't hurt, but they don't like it. I don't know if this works, but you can ask your Vet about it.
posted by xammerboy at 11:50 AM on August 29, 2004

heh, my friend's parents bought the citronella collars for the family dogs, who had a bit of a barking problem. The collars had a little microphone + microprocessor setup that would detect barking, and shoot out the corrective scent. The citronella could also be actuated by a human attempting to bark like a dog, much to my amusement.

woof! *FSST* woof! *FSSH*

anyway, the citronella collars are for problem barking when the owner is not available to provide corrective behavior (e.g., separation anxiety), which isn't the problem here. A behavorial intervention will probably be the way to go, as elucidated above.
posted by LimePi at 12:10 AM on August 30, 2004

« Older What do you think about these BlogWare options?   |   Can I rename my new partition? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.