We have a wonderful Beagle/mix who is almost 10 years old. We are constantly amazed by Tanner’s intelligence and loving nature, but he has one behavior that we cannot seem to control. He barks at everyone who walks by our house, whether or not they are walking a dog, and everyone who comes to our door. If they come in, he wags his tail and loves them, so it’s not that he is ferocious. He’s just really loud. Is there anything we can do to curb this behavior?
– Helaine Yancey, Charlotte, North Carolina
Barking is a normal behavior that dogs do to alert people to changes in their environment, and in your dog’s mind, he has saved your life a thousand times. I don’t think it’s a behavior you should stop altogether, but one that you simply need some control over when you know there is no threat to you or your property.
There is a saying that most people can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. The same can be said of dogs, except they usually can’t bark and run at the same time – or bark and sit or bark and do a trick. Think about it; when you call your dog into the house to get him to stop barking, he stops barking the moment he turns and run towards you. Mission accomplished.
Use these same tactics in the house. When your dog starts barking at the window, shake a can of coins to interrupt the behavior and get his attention, then say, “Tanner stop” followed by a recall command like “Tanner here.” The second command is needed, so he learns he is being rewarded for the recall and not for barking. Begin this training by standing a few feet away from him. Over time, you should be able to say, “Tanner here” from almost anywhere in the house and he will come running to you.
As for the door barking, ask a friend to help you train Tanner. Have your friend stand outside and ring the bell. When Tanner barks at the bell, say, “Tanner, thank you,” and then give the command “Tanner sit.” Tanner will have trouble maintaining his barking if he is sitting. Reward him for sitting and being quiet, then open the door and let your friend in. If he stands or barks, have your friend step back out and ask him to sit again.
Repeat this process at least ten times each session until your intelligent boy learns that after his initial alert, you can handle things from that point on. You may need to keep him on a leash initially to keep him from jumping on people and barking. That is something dogs can do at the same time.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal