I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Lawrenceville last Monday working with him and his eighteen-month-old German Shepherd named Juno. Juno was a great dog and full of energy. His biggest problem was running to the door and jumping on people when anyone came to the front door. Most people don’t like being greeted this way when entering a house, so my client was really anxious to have this corrected. I easily saw the problem when I first arrived. My client had no control over Juno the moment I ran the doorbell and did not give Juno any meaningful direction telling him not to jump on me when I entered.
I told my client that we could easily fix the problem once and for all. By the time we finished the session, Juno would not come to the door when the doorbell rang or someone loudly knocked on the door. He would rather stay back and calmly watch my client go to the door, open it, greet the guest, and invite them inside. My client was amazed at the results. He could now easily tell Juno what was right and wrong and Juno would properly respond and obey. As we were finishing up, my client brought up a problem he had with Juno’s barking. Although he was a very quiet boy today, he normally loved to bark. My client asked what could be done about that…
I first explained to my client that barking is something that almost all dogs do to warn us of a potential threat. Since German Shepherds are natural watch dogs, Juno naturally “looks for things out of the ordinary”. Juno may consider many of these “out of the ordinary things as “targets of interest”. These “targets of interest” can include squirrels, birds, dogs walking by, noises, the garbage man, etc.
Taking all of this into consideration, a dog that barks at everyday things is not a good watchdog. A dog like this is similar to a car alarm that keeps going off over and over again. People will eventually stop paying attention. Since Juno is barking at almost anything, he is becoming the little boy that cried “Wolf!”. It only takes so many times until nobody will pay attention to him.
A good watchdog should only bark when something out of the ordinary happens. Examples of this could be when someone attempts to enter your property or when there is imminent danger like a house fire. Dogs naturally protect their territory but you need to let your dog know what they should worry about.
Dogs that bark a lot can be of various personality types. Confident dogs will feel it is their duty to ward off everything and everybody from their turf. They are insistent in their warnings and are vigilant in keeping things away. Timid and fearful dogs may be very worried about these scary threats, because they often feel vulnerable. They will do everything in their power to keep them from approaching their domain. This can even escalate into growling and biting.
A dog may also be barking to call the pack back to him (separation anxiety) as he is worried for his safety and that of the pack.
These are all natural survival instincts for dogs. Since they are dogs living in a human society, we need to teach them what is acceptable barking, and what is not. We need to do this in a manner that they will understand.
Some great ideas for you and your dog are:
- Don’t react to your dog every time he barks by calling him, going to him, or yelling at him. You are only reinforcing his ‘calling of the pack’ responsibility.
- Provide a safe place for him to sleep and relax when he is by himself. Patrolling an entire house is a huge job that will require lots of barking.
- Be your dog’s strong and forthright leader. He will feel less vulnerable if he knows you are taking care of him and the rest of the family. This includes setting rules, getting him to work for you by following and focusing, and not allowing him to tell you what he wants you to do.
Understanding the temperament of your dog, the constant messages he’s sending to you and others, and the scope of his concern is paramount to educating him and controlling the barking. Some solutions that are available to stop barking can possibly make the matter worse.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.