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Help! My dog barks at everything that passes by

Yikes! Do you find yourself frustrated, and explaining to visitors and neighbors that “my dog barks at everything that passes by”? Here’s help for anyone with a dog that likes to vocalize—a lot!

Barking is one of those issues that can really drive a wedge between neighbors—and cause headaches inside your house, too!  Often clients come to us when the barking has become a big problem “Please,” they plead, “I just want to know how to stop my dog barking!”

Most of us don’t want to stop all barking. We just want our dogs to stop when we tell them to, and to bark at actual threats. After all, one benefit of having a dog at home is getting an alert to strangers coming near (or to warn others that you’ve got a canine companion).

But when there’s too much barking it’s time to take action!

First: define the problem and your goal; for instance:

  • Yep… my dog barks at everything that passes by!
  • HOW to stop dog barking at night?
  • Ugh! My dog barks while I am at work…

In this article we’ll tackle the first scenario (though the training process may help you make progress with the others, too). (If your dog is barking while you’re away, refer to part two of this series for help!)

Help for when my dog barks at everything that passes by

It’s useful to remember that your dog is following his or her instincts. They’re responding to a perceived threat of some sort. You should also know that shouting at them means zilch in dog language—in fact, it’s more likely to help them get further riled up.

Instead, your goal is to help them relax, and to connect doing what you ask, with a reward.

Since the most difficult time to train them is when they’re already agitated, a good strategy is to practice ingraining positive habits when they’re calm. Here’s how to begin:

Teach a hand and voice commandMy dog barks at everything

  • It will help if they know the command Speak; if they don’t you’ll need to create or catch a situation where they start barking.
  • Use a finger-to-lips action, along with the voice command “quiet” in a calm, firm voice, as soon as he or she barks.
  • Don’t acknowledge them in any way until they stop barking.
  • Be ready with a positive reward—a favorite treat and plenty of praise—as soon as the barking stops.

Train them to stop barking at passersby

Once they reliably listen to you when calm, recruit a friend to play the role of “stranger” outside. Practice the same process, patiently using your commands, jumping in with praise and a treat as soon as there’s the slightest break in the barking action.

TIP: Your attention to them while they’re barking can, for some dogs, be part of their reward. So, as often as possible—particularly if the barking is to get attention (like if they’re crated, in a different room, or while you’re out for a walk), ignore them while they’re barking. Make a fuss over them and offer a treat as soon as they stop.

It’ll take time, but with steady practice and consistency, most dogs will get the drift before long.

How to stop my dog barking at other dogs

Certainly, you could use the “listen to my command” approach. But ideally your goal is to train your dog that in certain situations NOT BARKING will bring happiness their way!

To do this, it can help to train them to view the situation as a reward-worthy experience. Let’s use the example of a dog that goes wild at the approach of another dog.

  • Recruit a friend who has a dog to help you. Have them stand at a “safe” distance (one where your dog doesn’t start to tense up and bark).
  • Offer your dog praise and a treat.
  • As the dog gets closer, keep up the rewards.
  • If your dog starts to bark, use your hand and voice commands to encourage him or her to stop, then have the other pair retreat, and try again.

You’ll need to practice this repeatedly—even on a number of different days—but over time your patience will most likely be rewarded.

And if you’re still swearing because my dog barks at everything that passes by after a few weeks’ practice, give us a call. We can help you identify what’s behind the barking, and support your efforts with professional dog behavior training (in person, or remote).

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