If you have a dog who likes to bark at people, then you already know how much of a difficulty it can be at times.
But regardless of whether the barking is caused by an enthusiastic greeting or defensiveness behavior, the problem is one of the most common difficulties dog owners face, especially with certain breeds of dog who are prone to this behavior.
In this guide, we’re going to explore a few of the different reasons why your dog may be inclined to bark at people, and we will also cover several effective tips and strategies you can use to reign in the behavior. Keeping this in mind, let’s get started.
Why Does My Dog Bark At People?
There are several reasons why your dog may be barking at people, and paying attention to the tone of their bark along with their body language will go a long way toward revealing the reason. Ultimately, it’s important to uncover these reasons, because they may play a big part in solving the issue.
Happy & Excited
When your dog is happy to see you (or a particular guest) then there’s a good chance your dog is barking due to the excitement they’re feeling. You can usually tell they’re excited because the tail will be wagging, and they’ll have a relaxed body language, and perhaps an open mouth that looks somewhat like a smile. They may even become playful and very energetic, or display signs of frustration and eagerness to greet the new visitor.
Scared & Fearful
If your dog is fearful, then they will usually have their ears back, their tail down, and will generally be aiming to take up as little space as possible while making themselves look smaller. It’s important to give your dog some space in this situation, as they may be inclined to display aggressive behavior if they feel too threatened by the situation.
Territorial & Protective
If your dog has stiffened up and seems very alert, then they may be displaying protective and territorial behaviors, especially in response to an unknown guest who’s arriving at your home. They’ll often hold their tail up high, keep their ears pricked up, and the may even have their hackles raised as well.
Separation & Boredom
In some cases, your dog may be barking due to loneliness or separation anxiety, and you will usually hear a whining tone to the bark which most owners will understand to be a sense of upset, distress, or loneliness. In this situation, your dog may be barking for some attention. If your dog is bored, then the tone will often be more repetitive and monotonous.
How Can I Stop My Dog Barking At People?
Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why your dog may be barking, it’s worth digging into the various tips and strategies you can employ when it comes to resolving the unwanted barking behavior. With this in mind, let’s begin.
When your dog is barking it’s essential to stay calm and keep your cool. When your dog is barking out of fear or defensiveness due to other people, then any tension or anxiety you feel will only be detected by your dog and could reinforce their belief that the person or situation is some kind of threat and therefore they’re right to keep barking.
In general, it’s always best to stay calm and relaxed so your dog will learn that there’s no reason to feel fear or defensiveness towards the person they’re barking at.
A common mistake people make is to yell at the dog to “be quiet!” or “stop barking!”, but while this response is somewhat understandable, it can actually be counterproductive in most cases. In fact, your loud reprimands may be reinforcing the unwanted behavior.
Why? Because your dog can easily interpret the yelling as joining in, which confirms to your dog that they’ve been engaging in the correct behavior all along. Therefore, it’s crucial to never reinforce bad behavior when it comes to correcting a problem, and yelling is surprisingly close to barking!
Soothing Your Dog
If your dog is barking and getting overexcited on a frequent basis, then it can be useful to apply a few soothing strategies that’ll settle your dog’s nerves and keep them calmer around people. In general, this should go some way toward alleviating the barking behavior as well.
An excellent way to soothe your dog and keep them calmer is to use the Thundershirt, which is a pressure wrap that helps to keep your dog feeling happier, calmer, and reassured. Your dog can wear this item for many hours at a time, and it can be a great thing to use if you’re expecting visitors and want to keep your dog relaxed.
Ignore The Barking
As difficult as it may be to ignore your dog while they’re barking at someone, you need to ‘ignore’ the behavior because any attention you give (either good or bad) is likely to reinforce the behavior you don’t want. So this means you need to ignore entirely your dog entirely and withdraw any attention you’re giving them, which means no touching, no speaking, and no acknowledgment at all.
Eventually, your dog will become quiet at some point. When this moment comes, reward them with a treat and praise.
With repetition and patience, your dog will gradually learn that a positive reward comes when they’re not barking, and they’ll eventually learn that the sooner the barking stops, the sooner a reward comes. Ultimately, your dog will no longer persist with their barking at all.
At certain times, it isn’t going to be possible to ignore the barking – especially if your dog is very persistent and won’t stop barking for several minutes or more. In these situations, it’s useful to have some kind of distraction that you can use to divert your dog’s attention.
Fortunately, you can also use this as a training method, too. All you need to do is give your dog a task that they’ve already been trained to do. For example, tell them to “lie down”, “go to bed”, or “sit”. If your dog is already well-trained to perform these commands, then there’s a good chance this will be enough to distract them from the barking. In many cases, they’ll perform the task and stop barking afterward.
However, if your dog won’t follow these commands just yet you can always use a dog chew toy, or some kind of interactive toy to take their attention away from the barking. But you need to be careful because you don’t want your dog to learn that this is a reward for the barking behavior, so timing will be important. In general, it’s best to give them a reward when they’re quiet for a moment.
Teach Your Dog To Bark On Command
Teaching your dog to ‘speak’ may sound like the last thing you’d want to do if your dog keeps barking at people, but it’s certainly a useful way to gain control over your dog’s barking habits.
Once you have trained your dog to bark on command, you’ll also be able to teach them the “quiet” command at the same time.
Teaching the ‘quiet’ command is fairly straightforward. All you’ll need to do is wait until your dog has stopped barking, and once they’re silent, give the command “quiet” and reward them with a tasty treat.
Over time, they will learn to associate the command with the treat, and they will follow the command even when barking at someone, so you can use it to stop them before they get too carried away.
Keep Your Dog Tired
A tired dog rarely has the energy to bark at people, especially for long periods of time. So if you make sure your dog has received plenty of physical exercise for the day, there’s less chance of boredom and they’ll be less likely to engage in unwanted barking. If your dog isn’t getting enough exercise in the day, then it can be very useful to hire a dog walker, too.
Remove The Stimulus
If you can figure out the particular stimulus that’s behind your dog’s barking, then this can be a quick way to resolve the problem without too much effort. For example, some dogs may like to sit on a windowsill and watch passersby while barking at each and every one! However, blocking your dog’s access from this sitting position will help to stop the behavior.
You can also change your doorbell if your dog is accustomed to barking every time it rings, or ask regular guests not to ring it, for example.
Desensitize Your Dog
A classic way to reduce the barking behavior is to gradually desensitize your dog to the stimulus that’s causing them to bark. If your dog barks when they see people, then it can be useful to use a simple training exercise with a friendly helper.
It’s best to start from a distance, and as you gradually get closer to the person, reward your dog when they stay quiet. If your dog starts barking, pause and wait until they stop. Once they’ve stopped, give them a small treat. It can take some patience and practice to get this right, but over time, you should be able to get very close to the person without the overexcited barking behavior occuring. What’s more, you can use this training tactic in a variety of situations, regardless of the stimulus that’s causing your dog to bark.
Fear Of People
Some dogs may be inclined to bark at any new people, and this can make it quite difficult when it comes to meeting new people, having guests in your home, or even taking your dog for a pleasant walk. Sometimes, the issue can stem from a lack of socialization with people, and it can lead to your dog feeling either aggressive or nervous around strangers. In general, the same tactics listed in the guide can help to alleviate some of these difficulties, although it may also be useful to get some professional help from a dog trainer in difficult cases.