Barking can play an important role in our lives with our dogs. It can alert us to dangers, from burglars to brushfires. However, too much barking or inappropriate barking can be unnerving–and even irritating to visitors. Dog trainer Alecia Evans helps several readers who are all asking: How do I stop my dog from barking at visitors?!
My Cocker Spaniel Won’t Stop Barking at Visitors!
Dear Alecia, I have a 3-year-old Cocker Spaniel. When the door bell is rung, she charges to the door and starts barking relentlessly to the point we have to shut her in another room to open the door. This does not stop the barking but just prevents her from seeing the people at the door.
When we have visitors, she will bark at them and won’t stop for about half an hour unless she gets some attention. She then starts barking again when they leave. She also jumps up at the door and growls when the post is being put through the letterbox. Any suggestions? – Chris
I understand the situation completely as I have worked with three Cocker Spaniels who exhibited the same behavior.
Out of control barking is generally a result of a dog that is stressed or confused about who is the leader as they become uncertain if should be protective or afraid.
In my professional observation, Cocker Spaniels are often very sweet dogs that have a good disposition but generally prefer the human to be the leader as they tend to be a bit on the nervous side. This behavior is generally the result of broken boundaries in training in which the humans allow certain behavior corrections to slide coupled with a breed that is not often the most secure in themselves.
The way I worked with this issue is that we went back to basics. Even though your dog may know sit, down , stay and come, I find that going back to simple basic commands and reviewing them while extending the time spent in a sit or down stay improves patience, calm, and clarity for the dog and human.
I suggest taking 3-5 minutes about 5-10 x a day and within that time pick one command and practice it with your dog.
When your dog gets the stay command, you will need to gradually increase the time to increase your dog’s patience and ability to hold the stay.
I suggest practicing daily for at least a week as a refresher and to reinforce your standing as the leader. Always praise your dog for their effort, be consistent, calm and clear.
Another area we focus on is walking.
Believe it or not, taking your dog for a walk and having your dog walk in sync with you will be one of the most valuable and simple ways in which to assist your dog in releasing the stress over who is the leader.
By teaching your dog to walk in sync with you, you will be establishing your authentic leadership and allowing your dog to learn to harness their own energy. This is crucial to assist your dog in the situation of excessive barking.
To teach your dog clear boundaries to calm excessive barking I highly recommend the Walk In Sync™ Humane Dog Walking and Training System. (www.walkinsync.com). The harness and leash assist in providing your dog with clear, consistent boundaries and the harness actually assists in calming your dogs barking through providing those consistent boundaries as your dog learns to relax into your leadership.
How much exercise does your dog receive? Walks really make a difference and time to play with their peers is also essential for a calm dog that can rebound more easily and refocus more quickly from excessive barking.
One thing I would also suggest is having your dog on leash to answer the door. Here you will practice sit- stays so that you can correct your dog when necessary and continue to re-direct their behavior from barking to sitting and staying.
I look forward to your update!
Paws Up! Alecia
I’m Overwhelmed By My Labradoodle’s Barking
How can I get my 7-month-old, Alpha-acting mini Labradoodle to stop barking when he plays, there is a knock at the door etc.? I am trying to train him but feel overwhelmed at the task with all the other dogs. I just combined families and now have 5 dogs ranging from two at 11 hours old and a 6-year-old and two under a year.
Sounds like you have your hands way more full than most. In order to end a barking habit, you have to be near the dog in case you have to perform a body tap and be so consistent.
Dogs tend to bark out of fear, aggression and playfulness. In your puppy’s case it seems as if your dog is thinking he is the boss which generally let,s me know that his training is not as consistent and clear it needs to be. Although I have never used a citronella spray collar before, I am going to suggest it in this case to see if your Labradoodle responds favorably. It will be a guaranteed way to ensure consistency.
Please know that this is a band-aid type of treatment and is not to replace clear, consistent, proper training on a daily basis to help your dog learn what you require of him. So I would use it in conjunction with a solid training routine to remind him that he needs to express himself in a different manner and that you are his leader, he is not yours.
Paws Up! Alecia
My Basset Hound Won’t Stop Barking!
I adopted a basset hound–he is a 3-year-old male. I brought him into a home with a 5-year-old male Cocker Spaniel, and 10-Year-old male indoor only cat. He is a good, albeit goofy dog—and usually gets along with the others. (All have been neutered.)
Anyway, he barks sooooo loudly–at ANYTHING… a leaf blowing in the yard, a cat walking across the street. When he gets barking, the cocker will begin to chime in–he was always pretty quiet. The Cocker will start barking, even though he doesn’t know what he is barking at. My daughter gets upset at the noise, and YELLS for him to stop—as you can see, it sometimes becomes a circus.
I tell my daughter not to yell, but rather keep a calm voice, because her yelling just adds to the excitement. Any suggestions on me not having to get noise cancelling headphones? The Basset (75 pounds, also tends to jump.) — Stephanie
Congrats on your newest family member. Barking can be quite the annoying habit. For rescue dogs I highly recommend a few retraining sessions over a one-month period on basic commands like: sit, stay, down, heel and come. I cannot stress how important this is to establishing healthy, clear boundaries and who is in charge.
When a dog gets to the point of barking and not listening to you, there has to be a little more physical intervention such as a tap on the dog’s side to let them know that you meant what you said. In the case of barking consistency is vital to ending the barking habit.
The other important factor is to identify if the barking is coming from a confident place where the dog feels like he is doing his job in letting you know that there is something to be alert about or he is nervous barking because he is not confident in your leadership abilities to handle the situation.
If it is coming from confidence, praise him that he let you know are thankful he alerted you and now you have the situation covered. If it is coming from nervousness or uncertainty you will need to ask him to be quiet and if he continues you will want to give him a tap or a leash correction (slight tug) ever time he barks so he knows that you are on it and he can stop barking.
It will take a little persistence and patience but will be well worth the effort.
About the Author
Alecia Evans is the inventor of The Walk In Sync™ Humane Dog Walking and Training System with her exclusive 5 Minute Manners Makeovers using the Walk In Sync™ Harness and Accu-Grip Leash, along with her Walk In Sync™ 3 Easy Steps to teach any human/dog duos to Walk In Sync in just minutes.