Tips to Stop a Dog From Barking at People She Doesn’t Know

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 2, 2022

stop a dog from barking at people

For this Santa Monica dog training session we helped 1 year-old Yorkipoo Lily, sharing tips to stop a dog from barking at people or dogs she doesn’t know.

We started off the session by going over a number of basics. Because Lily was adopted during Covid, she didn’t get the opportunity to go to puppy class. I wanted to make sure that her guardian understood how to use marker words to ensure that Lily understood what they wanted. Next we went over a hand targeting exercise so that the guardians could practice the timing of using their marker words and also because it’s a nice alternative to the recall cue.

I shared tips on how to celebrate desired behaviors to motivate Lily to want to do the things for guardian want instead of jumping or pawing at them for attention. I also suggested that her guardians ask her to sit or lay down when she is demanding attention from them to help them develop healthy leader follower dynamic.

How to stop a dog from barking at people

One of the main things Lillys guardians wanted to work on was her habit of barking at strangers or dogs she did not know. It’s important to recognize that all dog behavior is trying to achieve something. In Lily’s case, she was barking to get people to go away or let them know that she was protecting her human.

Stopping a dog from barking at strangers is all about creating a positive association. This means that something good happens when people approach. But it’s important that this good thing happens before the dog reaches its limit and starts to react (barking in Lily’s case).

I went over dog cut off signals so that the guardians can know what to watch for. The instant that Lily starts to get stiff, stares at someone, holds her breath, lowers her head, turns away or licks her lips can be an indication that she is uncomfortable. Recognizing these warning signs and increasing the distance between her and whatever it is is vital as it helps the dog see that we are managing the situation for them. That means they don’t have to bark to make things go away as were taking care of things on our end.

The guardians were having a little bit of a debate between each other about how to best treat Lily‘s habit of barking at things she doesn’t understand or like. One guardian felt that it was important for her to practice being in the situation so that she would get over her fears. The other guardian was concerned that if she was in a situation that caused her to bark, that she was enhancing her fears. In this case, both guardians were correct and not correct.

If you’re going to help a dog get over something, it’s important to arrange a situation that is at a low enough level of intensity, that the dog can perform or feel comfortable in. Once you achieve that, then you can start practicing in more and more intense or realistic situations until you get to the real world situation. This requires a lot of practice and creating what we would like to refer to as “set ups.”

I showed the guardian how to use a clicker to help Lily learn that when people approach, it’s actually a good thing. Or another way to put it, the dog doesnt need to bark when people approach. I like to call this Click for Looks and it’s a wonderful way to stop dogs from barking at strangers. If your dog likes to bark at people it doesn’t know or at dogs, check out the free positive dog training video below.

This is a great positive dog training method to prevent dog barking because you can practice this at a distance where the dog feels comfortable.

Now every person and dog is unique, so it will be important for the guardians to recognize that sometimes they will need to move further away to practice like when the dog or person is not so intimidating to Lily. In thos cases, they can move closer. The most important thing as the practicing at a level that the dog can handle. Once a dog erupts in barking or lurching, it’s in a hysterical state and any further practice will be ineffective until the dog calms down.

By visiting restaurants at times where there are very few people or going to the beach with the intention of practicing instead of hanging out will give the guardians the ability to focus on Lily and make the no barking practice far more effective and impactful.

It will take time and practice but eventually, Lily will start to associate the arrival of the waiter, a stranger or another dog as meaning she’s about to receive a reward. While this is going on, her guardians will make sure that nobody interacts with her that she doesn’t want to by observing her cut off signals and increasing the distance or cutting them off before they get a chance to make contact with her.

Because of how dedicated her guardians are to her well-being, I’m confident that they will arrange a few practice sessions every week where they can do the click for looks exercises. Some of these things will be easier done than others such as practicing in the elevator at slow times of day and then working up to the busier times when the more people will be inside. It helps when you go into it thinking that you’re practicing as opposed to trying to practice while you’re living your life. That is one of the things that causes most people to fail or causes the most frustration because you’re trying to do two things at once.

To help the guardians remember all the positive dog training tips we covered in this in-home Santa Monica dog training session, I recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr