Barking is one of the ways dogs have to communicate, however, although some breeds have been selected by humans due to their ability to bark, nowadays it’s not the most desirable trait in a dog. There are different reasons why dogs bark. Some dogs only bark at night, others bark during playtime, and others bark at people. Barking at people can be difficult to deal with because, even if a dog doesn’t mean any harm, some people can get scared anyway.
Barking at people can be motivated by different reasons and it’s important to understand what is leading a dog to bark at someone before trying to correct this behavior. Applying the wrong method can make matters worse.
Why do dogs bark at people?
Before even thinking about creating a training plan to improvve dog behavior, dog owners need to find out why is their dog barking at people. Answering the next 3 questions that can help figure this out:
- What does the bark sound like? Dogs bark because they’re trying to communicate something and most dog owners can figure out what a dog is feeling depending on the barking type they’re using. Is the dog looking for attention? Or trying to scare someone away?
- Who is the bark directed to? Is it barking towards a guest that just entered the house? Is it towards strangers on the street? Is it towards a member of the family?
- Where is the dog when it barks at people? Is the dog at home and barking at someone outside the house? Does it only bark while out on a walk? Is it on a leash or roaming free?
Answering the questions above can help give some insights into what is triggering the barking behavior. By keeping a close eye on their dogs, dog owners can start to pick up on some subtle signs that will allow them to identify some patterns.
3 common situations that trigger barking and how to stop it
After understanding why a dog barks at people, it’s time to create an action plan. Dog owners should always use positive reinforcement instead of punishment. Using punishment can lead dogs to associate the presence of a person with being punished. This can cause dogs to develop a fear of humans and, in severe cases, fear aggression.
1. Barking at house guests
Dogs can bark at house guests either because they’re excited or because they’re afraid of them and want them to go away. The difference between these two can be picked up through the barking type dogs use or by the dog’s body language. Whenever dogs are excited about the arrival of the guests, they’ll be near them wanting their attention. If they’re afraid of the guests, they’ll have their tails tucked between their legs and never get too close to the guests.
To prevent this behavior, dog owners shouldn’t allow their dogs to rush to the door or approach guests as they come in. The dogs should be placed in another room or in their crate whenever guests come into the house. For dogs that already show this behavior, the other option is to redirect their attention by showing them what they should be doing instead of barking at people. It can be something as simple as asking them to go to their bed and rewarding them for that good behavior.
Usually, the cue to barking at people is the doorbell ringing. This is a cue that dog owners can easily use to train their dogs to stop this behavior. That way, dog owners don’t need to wait until they have guests over to train their dogs.
2. Barking at people while on a walk
There are some dogs that only bark at people when they’re out on a walk. Just like with house guests, this can also be because they’re excited and want to greet the person or because they’re scared and are trying to make them go away. However, although the reasons are the same as before, in this situation the dogs’ reaction can be more intense as they’re often more reactive when restricted by a leash. Being on a leash can create feelings of frustration in dogs or make them feel like they’re trapped.
To get a dog to stop barking at people on the street dog owners can use counterconditioning techniques. These techniques aim to get dogs used to seeing people on the street without being overwhelmed and reacting. The ultimate goal is to change the dogs’ emotional response.
Dog owners can do this by redirecting their dogs’ attention in exchange for a reward or by rewarding calm behavior whenever the dog notices a person passing by. To redirect their dogs’ attention, dog owners can do something as simple as asking their dogs to look at them and rewarding them immediately with a treat.
3. Barking at people outside of the house
In most cases, dogs that bark at people passing by their house are showing signs of territorial barking. This means that their goal is to protect what they perceive as being their territory from any intruders. Ideally, dog owners should start by preventing this behavior before it becomes a habit. A way to prevent this behavior is by blocking the dogs’ view so they’re not able to see whenever someone walks by the house.
Some dogs only show signs of territorial barking when they’re left alone at home. In this case, dog owners can use a white-noise generator or leave the TV on while they’re away. That way, it’ll be more difficult for dogs to hear any sounds that can trigger the barking behavior.
Making sense of it all
The reasons why dogs bark at people can range from a dog being protective of its territory to simply wanting attention or greeting someone. It’s important to understand what is the reason behind it before trying to fix it. Ideally, dog owners should strive to prevent a dog from creating this habit as habits are harder to break. However, if a dog has already developed the habit of barking at people, it’s always possible to change that although it requires patience and consistency.