Welcome to “Ask Crystal,” where you can ask your pet behavior questions! You can submit your question for Crystal at the bottom of the page!
I just pulled the blinds down on one of my windows where my 3-year-old dog loves to sit. I hate doing this since he can spend hours there, however when people walk by, he become crazy barking and runs around. He also runs to our front door barking anytime someone enters the main door of our condo building. I try to distract him and sometimes it works but then he goes right back to the same behavior.
Is there anything I can place near my front door that would have something that would make him back up!! Thank You for any suggestions.
Guard Dog Mom
Nuisance barking is the number one problem that dog owners complain about. Dogs bark for a lot of different reasons. People often say to me “My dog barks at everything!”. Unfortunately, we do need to assess the dog’s motivation for the behavior in order to address it. Different types of barking will have different solutions. If you can’t figure out his triggers on your own, I suggest having a professional dog trainer come out and assess the behavior.
- The alert bark to tell you when the someone is approaching.
- The alarm bark serves the same purpose but the severity of the reaction is more intense and there is often some fearfulness motivating the behavior.
- Demand barking is when your dog insists that you feed them, let them out, play with them etc.
- Frustration barkers will bark at you when they don’t get what they want. I see this in class a lot when owners are too slow with dispensing the treats.
- Boredom barkers are those left out all day with nothing to do. That bark tends to be a continuous, monotone type bark.
- Stress barking is usually nonstop hysterical barking and howling. This happens when the dog is fearful, anxious or panicking about something in the environment or due to isolation distress.
- Dogs also bark when they are greeting people excitedly and when they play.
My best guess based on what you are describing is alarm barking. It is really important to manage the dog’s environment to prevent the behavior from occurring. This will help reduce arousal which is causes dogs to react in a more explosive way. You have taken the right step in closing the blinds. If for some reason that doesn’t help block the view enough, there are some additional options. Depending on your setup, you could use a baby gate to keep him out of the room entirely. You can use frosted window film on the window to obscure the view as well. Another option would be to use furniture to block access. He is reacting to the noise of people outside so if you can block noises at all with while noise or the radio that might be a good idea when you aren’t there.
First, make sure that he is getting enough exercise every day. Exercise reduces stress and will help him calm down. Part of the issue for a lot of dogs that bark excessively is too much stress and not enough outlets for that excess energy. That comes out as more sensitivity to stimuli. Walks are not sufficient exercise for most young dogs. They are great for getting their smells in which is certainly calming and great enrichment. However, he likely needs more exercise and stimulation. Find out what type of games he likes. Fetch can be a great game to tire dogs out and you can play it inside the house if you don’t have a yard. A tug game with rules is a great way to burn excessive energy as well. A small flirt pole can be used inside the house if you have a bit of open space.
In addition to physical exercise, be sure that he is getting appropriate mental stimulation. Feed exclusively from a food enrichment toy, scatter feed or hide boxes with kibble around the house. Dogs need to work for their food to use up that mental energy and most dogs really enjoy it. Start off easy if your dog has never used an enrichment toy. Try an open box with kibble at first and then close the flaps. If the toy is too hard, the dog will get discouraged. Training is another great way to burn mental energy. Some basic cues that would be helpful for him would be watch me, wait, down, stay and go to your mat. I would also suggest that once he knows down and stay, practice Dr. Karen Overall’s relaxation protocol to teach him to relax through distractions. Suzanne Clothier’s Really Real Relaxation Protocol would also be helpful to teach him calm behavior.
Once you are sure you have addressed his physical and mental needs, you can work on teaching behaviors to interrupt the barking. We want to avoid yelling angrily at the dog as that could be raise the excitement level for the dog or possibly frighten them and it does little to change the behavior. There are a few options for a behavior modification plan. You can work on teaching a positive interrupter or quiet cue to interrupt barking. If the behavior is fear related, you can work on a desensitization and counter conditioning program to the approach of strangers.
Teach a positive interrupter cue to interrupt the behavior without yelling. A positive interrupter is a highly reinforced behavior which will allow you to get your dog’s attention back to you. It needs to be automatic so he doesn’t think about it, he just responds. All training needs to first take place outside of the situations that make the dog bark. We start in low distraction situations so the dog will be more likely to be able to pay attention. Choose a phrase to use, you could say “uh oh” or whatever you like as long as it doesn’t have an angry tone. Stand in front of your dog and say the phrase and then feed a high value treat like a bit of chicken. Repeat until he gets super excited when he hears the phrase. Next, when he is distracted and turned away, call the phrase, when he runs to you, feed the chicken. Gradually try to up the distraction level by interrupting sniffing outside or other distractions. Once he can automatically come back for those real-life distractions, you can begin training when he starts barking. Be sure to keep it in maintenance by practicing every now and again even once he knows the behavior.
To teach a quite cue you will need to figure out how to get him to bark first when you are ready to train. If he barks at the doorbell or knocking, you can incite him to bark by pressing the doorbell or knocking. After a couple barks, say “quiet” and hold a really high value treat up to his nose. Dogs can’t bark and smell at the same time so hopefully he will give you a moment of quiet. When he does say “yes” and feed him the treat. Repeat many times and gradually start to wait for longer periods of quiet before saying yes and rewarding him.
If the barking is related to fear, we need to work on changing his emotions about strangers approaching and teach an alternative behavior. You need to find the point where he notices the sound of the people and hasn’t reacted yet. Maybe you can hear the front door open, say “yes” and feed an amazing treat. Continue to feed the amazing treats for attention to you. He should start to look at you as soon as he hears the noise, when he gets to that point, treat when he looks back at you and engage him in some cues such as sit and down. The next step is allowing him to look at people from a distance where he won’t bark. You might want to have him on leash and open the door and get as far away as necessary. Say “yes” and treat when he looks at the people without reacting. You will slowly be able to get closer to the trigger as you work on desensitizing him. Fear can be a difficult emotion to change so I highly recommend seeking the advice of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer to assist you in creating a plan and knowing what to look for specifically.
There are a couple of options for keeping him away from the front door. It sounds like a freestanding gate would work best since you can form those into whatever shape you like. Basically, form an airlock around the doorway. If he is a door darter, that should work well as you will have enough space to get in and close the door. If you wanted to train a behavior, I would suggest “go to your mat” or “place” cue. It basically teaches a dog to go to a specific location and stay there. If his behavior at the door when people come over is inappropriate, I suggest putting him in another room to answer the door. It all depends on what the scenario is.
It’s not possible to stop a dog from barking all together. Most people don’t really want their dog stop barking completely, they just want to stop the incessant barking. Once you have addressed his physical and mental needs, find out which training method works for you. Happy training!