Why do dogs bark at strangers? It’s a question you probably ask yourself whenever the postman comes around and gets an earful from your furry friend. It can get quite irritating too and in extreme cases, even cause friction with your neighbors. Luckily, excessive barking is something you can control if you understand the reasons behind it.
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Why dogs bark
Whenever your dog barks, he’s trying to tell you something. In the case of the postman, he’s simply warning you that a stranger is in your front yard. Your dog may bark for any one of the following reasons:
• Attention seeking
• Guarding his territory
• Frustration or boredom
• Injury or illness
• Separation anxiety
Sometimes dogs bark for no good reason at all.
So how do you stop your dog from barking at the postman, or any stranger for that matter?
Don’t Yell Back
Although it’s very tempting to do this, you shouldn’t yell at your dog to be quiet. Yelling at him makes you sound as if you’re barking along with him and can only encourage him to continue.
Interrupt the Barking With a Distraction
Tossing something in front of your dog (not at him) when he barks can temporarily distract him and shift his focus away from whatever is stimulating him to bark. It can be a set of keys, or a soda can with coins, which lands right in front of her when she least expects it.
You can follow up on the trick above by calling him away from the door or window and commanding him to “sit”. Once he obeys give him a treat and command him to remain seated and quiet. Continue giving him treats until the postman or stranger is gone.
Block Your Dog from Seeing Strangers
Creating an environment where you remove the stimulus that causes your dog to bark can control excessive barking. You can do this by closing the curtains or blinds when your dog is home or, if he’s outside, relocate the pen or run to a place where he can’t see or hear whatever causes him to bark.
Use a Head Halter
A head halter is a humane and painless method of restraining your dog that works better than a choke chain. You’ll find that closing your dog’s mouth with a halter – like The Gentle Leader – forces him to turn his focus back to you, and away from the source of provocation. The halter can guide your dog to sit and remain calm at one go.
Use the “Quiet” Technique
You may do this with or without holding your dog’s muzzle. Doing so teaches your dog that he’s allowed to bark whenever someone enters the front porch until you say “quiet”. However, the barking should go on three or four times and then stop once you give him the command to be “quiet”.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Ignore the Barking
Ignoring your dog may backfire especially when he’s left outside – it could actually become a self-rewarding habit. The best solution is to supervise your dog closely and discourage him from running the fence, or barking at passersby. Get him some tough dog toys to chew on if you have to; if the habit gets out of control, consider counseling from a professional. You can find more information in directories and associations such as the ASPCA across the web.