How to Teach Your Dog Not to Bark at Strangers

Posted by Jackie Ly on

dog barking

It’s totally normal for dogs to bark, but it can also be a nuisance especially when they bark excessively around strangers. As much as you want to show others how friendly they are when it’s just the two of you playing and training, your dog may not cooperate and start scaring new people away when you’re in public or people drop by

Once they see that barking is effective to drive people away, they’ll start doing it every time a stranger is in your house or when they see one outside. 

You want to break this habit as early as possible– behaviorist methods and bark collars are effective ways to train them not to bark at strangers. 

But before breaking any habit, it’s best if you understand why they do it in the first place. 

Here are 4 reasons why your dog barks at strangers.

Why your dog barks at strangers

They’re being territorial

Observe your dog’s body language. If they’re stiff with their hackles raised  whenever a stranger or a new dog passes by your house or yard, it’s a clear sign that they’re protecting their territory.

Dogs are extremely protective of their home and their humans, and this means your dog sees strangers as potential threats. Being territorial isn’t always good. 

They’re excited

If your pup is barking at strangers with a wagging tail and wiggly butt, it's likely that they’re simply overcome with joy.

Dogs often bark at strangers because they are overly excited. Puppies do this more often, and it's typically not dangerous. Instead, they only use loud noises to express their naughtiness.

Although this type of barking shows how much your dog loves humans, it sometimes catches people off guard and makes them more afraid because they don't know your dog.

They lack human socialization 

It's possible that your dog barks because they are uncomfortable with new people, especially if they didn't have enough human interaction when they were puppies. Unsocialized dogs have a tendency to bark at strangers.

Rescue dogs also bark this way when human interaction is not frequent. In addition, dogs tend to bark if they have a bad experience with their previous owners, which affects their capacity to trust new people.This type of barking is linked to overwhelming anxiety.

They’re afraid

Lack of socialization leads to this  fear of the unknown, which can drive your dog to bark and howl at any unexpected people. If your dog is afraid of other animals and humans, you may expect them to bark at any visitors that approach you or your house.

How to train your dog to not bark at strangers

Once you understand why they’re barking, you can start to correct this behavior. Barking is a natural instinct for dogs, so while there are successful dog training strategies that can teach your dog to stop, don't expect to see results right away. Be patient.

Here are some tips to help you train your dog to be stranger-friendly.

Distract them 

You can train your dog to quit barking by distracting them. Once your dog starts barking, use noise to distract them. You may do this by clicking, snapping, or even by jangling your keys.  When they stop barking and are paying attention to you, tell them to sit and remain calm.

If you’re in public, like when you’re taking a walk, and they start barking at someone, , distract them by walking in the opposite direction of the passersby. This diverts their attention and avoids the chance of interaction that can cause them to bark more.

Teach them the “Quiet” command

Once your dog starts barking in the presence of a stranger, let them bark a few times. Then, lightly hold their muzzle and say, “Quiet.” Make sure they went under obedience training or this command won’t work.

Avoid yelling, as that produces negative reinforcement. Once they stop barking, take your hands off their muzzle. If they remain quiet, reward them with a treat.

Repeat the procedure if they start barking once more, rewarding them each time they stop. Increase the intervals between giving rewards so that the command can take effect.

You can try this strategy without holding your dog's muzzle if doing so creates frustration or uncooperative behavior. Instead, calmly use your quiet command, and then distract them from the stranger by offering them a reward or something to munch on, such as a small piece of chicken.

Send them to their “spot” 

First, pick a spot in your house where your dog can stay when visitors come. Then, train them to go to their spot. Again, make sure they had obedience training for this trick to work.

You can start by saying “go to your spot” and then throw a treat in its direction. Repeat this process about ten times.

As soon as your dog grasps this idea, you may use the command while acting as though you are throwing a reward in the direction of the target. To provide positive reinforcement, you can give them the treat if they comply.

The next step is to educate your dog to go to its location from various areas of the house. At the beginning of the training, don't forget to praise them whenever they follow instructions.

Reward them when they stop barking

Positive reinforcement is important when teaching your dog new things. Every time they stop barking around strangers when you tell them to, reward them with treats or verbal praise. This lets them know that they have done the right thing, and that it’s safe to stay calm around new people.

However, some dogs do respond better with negative reinforcement. You can use bark collars for a while to reinforce the command, but make sure you still reward them when they stop barking.

Use high-value treats, ones that are rare and tasty, to consistently grab your dog’s attention.

Preventive measures

As mentioned above, one of the most effective ways to stop your dog from barking at strangers is obedience training– this helps them follow your commands whenever a stranger is around. 

Remember that training is not just for police dogs, every dog is better off with training. 

Using preventive measures to limit your dog from interacting with others is recommended, especially if they must remain inside or outside without your supervision. 

Here are extra tips to limit their interactions with strangers:

  • Close curtains and windows to block their vision. This way, they can't see any strangers and have no reason to bark. For instance, if you are expecting a parcel, you can keep your curtains drawn at home. If someone is passing by your yard on the street, you can keep your curtains or blinds closed. On the other hand, it is recommended to install a high fence if your dog loves to remain outside. This limits your dog’s ability to see past your yard.
  • Provide an area away from guests. The hustle and bustle of visitors can stress your dog out, so make sure your puppy has a quiet space to relax and sleep it off. To keep him from hearing noise from outside the room, play a television or provide white noise.
  • Avoid unplanned meetings. Try to know ahead of time when a visitor could drop by. Avoid surprising your dog with a visitor who may not understand his tendency to bark at strangers.

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