One of the pressing problems that a lot of dog parents have is when their dogs bark at strangers. This can happen when they’re at home or even outside it, and it can be embarrassing and/or threatening. So how do you get your dog to stop barking at people?
It’s actually very simple. Understand the reasons, and apply the quick and easy tips we have for you.
I never know how my dogs are going to react to guests at home. With some people they act as if they’ve known their entire lives, and others they seem to hate with a passion. I don’t see a pattern, and with each new guest it’s like a Russian Roulette once they step inside the house.
Even worse, one of my older dogs is a cranky lady when outdoors. She immediately barks or growls at strangers who greet her, or when she gets startled. Frankly, I have as much to learn from these tips as you guys, so let’s begin.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Strangers?
As we’ve established in our article on the signs that a dog is about to bite, most of a dog’s aggressiveness is often rooted in anxiety. So the most prominent reason as to why a dog barks or bites is because of fear. Anxiety and territoriality are also among the top causes for aggressive barking.
It actually makes sense when you think about it. For strangers who arrive in your home, your dog feels threatened about the new presence they’re not used to inside their territory. Same thing with outdoors, even more so.
Outside, your dog doesn’t hold the turf. And anything that seems like a threat can make your dog anxious. High anxiety means that our dogs are more likely to become aggressive through barking and biting.
But in realizing this, we must also consider the fact that dogs have different kinds of barks. Aggressive barking due to fear, anxiety, or territoriality is just some of those.
Other Reasons for Barking
Barking is how dogs communicate. Obviously, they can’t express themselves the same way we do: by speaking. Barking is generally understood as a dog’s major way of communicating with each other and with their humans.
As a dog parent, you may be familiar with the fact that a dog’s bark can indicate a greeting. When your dog is happy to see you, they may bark to indicate this happiness. They also do this towards other dogs and humans to invite play.
Another purpose for a dog’s bark is to ask for attention. This usually happens when you’re training your dog and your dog barks to get your attention for the reward. These barks are often snappy and short.
Dogs can also bark because of frustration. This can often be heard when they’re tied up and can’t reach something like a toy, food, or even you. Personally, I know that my dog is barking with frustration because it sounds almost like a cough accompanied by some whining.
Finally, a dog can also bark when they are feeling bored. The best way to address this sort of barking is to keep your dog occupied and productive.
What we’re going to focus on today is the aggressive sort of barking that’s usually addressed to people. These can be house guests or even strangers. To determine what kind of barking your dog is doing when you’re still unfamiliar with their barks, look at their body language.
Body Language That Accompanies Barking
For happy or greeting barks, your dog can wag their tail from side to side or in a circular pattern. Their body is relaxed, and they’re mouths are slightly open in a pant or what looks like a small smile. A happy dog’s ears and tail are relaxed and in their natural positions.
Similar to greeting dogs, playful dogs are relaxed and can even look like they’re smiling. They’re even more energetic, running around and barking as if to invite you to play with them. They can also bow or jump to entice you to play.
The body language can vary for this sort of barking. My dogs accompany this kind of barking with something like a nod of their head or a small jump with just their front legs. As mentioned, it’s usually snappy, and the body language is very similar.
Dogs who bark due to frustration will usually pace uneasily. They can also shift body positions abruptly as if they can’t make up their mind on how to react. Basically, you’ll know it’s frustration quite easily.
If your dog is anxious or fearful, they will try to make themselves look as small as possible to avoid attracting attention to themselves. Their ears are pinned back, ail tucked under them, and their entire body is hunched over. They will also show some of the signs that they are ready to bite if provoked.
Dogs who are alert or who are feeling dominant and territorial will look really stiff. They establish eye contact, tails remain upright and still, and ears are perked up Their hackles can also be raised.
Aggressive dogs usually react out of fear, right? But they will also want to intimidate whatever is threatening them. So their body language is usually a combination of both anxious and territorial, showing their teeth to look just as threatening.
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking at People
Here are some tips to help address your dog barking at people, both inside and outside your home.
1. Teach them the “Quiet” Command
We made a handy guide on that, so you can check that out. Basically, this command allows you to make your dog cease their barking in any situation, aggressive barking included. It takes training and patience, but worth it in the end.
2. Ask guests to ignore them
Anxious dogs only feel more fearful if the object of their fear is looming over them. This is why you should ask your guests to just completely ignore your dog until your dog decides to approach them on their own. Once your dog starts warming up to your guests, you can allow your guest to give them a treat to make your dog more relaxed.
3. Have guests meet them beforehand
This is a bit time consuming, but one of the best ways to make sure your dog gets a long well with your guests. If you can manage it and if your guest is alright with it, have them meet your dog outside. It can be while on a walk so that your dog wouldn’t feel territorial, and they also wouldn’t feel cornered indoors.
Then, have your guest walk home with you and let them inside your home before your dog. One of the reasons why guests make dogs anxious is because they arrive in your home when your dog is inside and your dog feels boxed in by the threat. Having your guest go in before you will lessen the chances of this happening.
4. Distract them
When you have guests over, you can give your dog something to do to keep them occupied. This can take on different forms, depending on what works best with your dog. You can ask your dog to perform some tricks and reward them.
Another way you can do this is to bring them to their crate/ cage/ or a separate room. Although this can seem a bit alienating and extreme for your dog. To reduce these feelings in your dog, make them associate their crate/ cage/ or the room as their safe space instead of as a place of exile. That way, they are better relaxed and will even welcome being led there when they feel threatened by your guests.
Distracting them also works for when you’re outdoors. When your dog starts to become jittery around strangers, ask them to perform a trick upon command. Great training means that your dog will continue to perform them even when in an anxious state. It will also keep the distracted and more focused on you.
5. Socialize them
Finally, the best way to prevent your dog from getting anxious and aggressive towards other people is to socialize them properly. A dog that is properly socialized will be well-adjusted in all situations, and it will be very handy for exposing them to both guests and strangers alike.
Those are our quick and easy steps to get your dog to stop barking at people. these have been tried and tested by other dog parents, and all come highly recommended.
Remember, always understand the reason behind your dog’s barking to better address it. To do so, assess their body language as well as their “tone of voice” (or bark).
All doggies are good doggies, and aggressive barking may just be a symptom that they don’t feel secure in their environment. Give your dog assurance and make them feel safe at all costs.
Want access to hundreds of dog training videos from a pro? Check out Doggy Dan’s website.