Teaching a Dog to Stop Barking When People Walk in Front of His House

Marley Freeman

Marley is a 10 year old Black Lab who lives on Coronado Island with a long time friend of mine. Marley was trained extremely well by my friend’s wife to work as a service dog as my pal uses a wheel chair. He and his family just relocated to a home they built and asked me to help put an end to Marley’s habit of barking at passers by.

After discussing the situation with his guardians, I went over a leadership exercise I like to use. The exercise gives the dog the ability to practice respecting a boundary set by the human, restrain itself and enhances the authority of the handler in the dog’s eyes.

It only took two corrections the first time we went through the exercise before Marley understood what I was asking from him. Once that was the case, I walked my friend’s wife through the exercise and she only needed to correct Marley once. My pal went next, dropping a high value meat treat in front of his wheel chair then backing away.

Because of the wheelchair, we needed to slightly alter the exercise, but despite the change, Marley got it right away, laying down a few feet away from the treat awaiting permission from my friend to get it.

Next we went upstairs (yes their actually are basements in Southern California) so we could teach Marley to only bark a few times when people knocked on the door. My friend went outside to ask a neighbor to play the part of a visitor. I told him to ask her to knock and ring the bell vigorously so we could provoke the strongest reaction from her dog.

I sat down at a table with my friend’s wife about 15 feet from the front door and chatted a bit as Marley laid at our feet. As soon as he heard the knock, Marley snapped his head up. Once he heard the doorbell, he got up and rushed over to the for barking.

I got up and walked to the door in a casual (not rushed) pace. Once I passed the dog I turned so my back was at the door and then made a sound to disagree with Marley’s barking. He stopped for a moment, but as soon as the door bell rang again he starts to bark once more.

I took a sudden deliberate step towards the dog and made the sound again, keeping the front door to my back. When I did this Marley stopped barking and also backed away from the door. I kept walking at him until he was about 8 feet from the door. I waited in place for a moment, then took one step backwards so that my chest was still facing the dog. When the neighbor knocked again, Marley started to bark and move forward so I repeated the sound and took a step right at him. As soon as I did he stopped barking and walked away.

I walked backwards to the front door then jiggled the handle a bit as this sound is often a trigger that causes the dog to rush the door. Marley started forward but before I had a chance to step forward or make the sound to disagree, Marley stopped himself and sat down. All the while, the neighbor was ringing the doorbell and knocking.

I cracked the front door and waited a sec to see what the dog would do next. When he stayed in place, I opened it all the way which caused Marley to get up. I made the sound again and Marley stopped and sat down. I invited the neighbor in but did not allow Marley to move past the 8 foot boundary I had asked him to respect. By asking a dog to stay at this distance, the guest can feel comfortable and its easier for the dog to relax.

We reset the exercise but this time my friend’s wife went to open the door. This time Marley needed fewer corrections and didn’t react to the barking with much intensity. We had my friend come inside and then we repeated the exercise with him. This time Marley only needed two corrections before he laid down 8 feet from the door, barking only twice.

I suggested they practice this exercise when either of them come home or with family and friends. It should only take 6 – 12 repetitions for this exercise until Marley starts to keep a respectful distance from the door when people arrive without continuing his barking.

Next we went outside so that we could practice a variation of the exercise, this time with people passing by the front of the house. Because of the work we did with the previous exercises, it only took a few corrections before Marley gave up his barking and laid down next to my friend.

Marley Freeman 2

As we enjoyed the beautiful day on my friend’s porch, other people passed by the front of the house. Marley saw and watched them, but didn’t bark at all.

Because of his intelligence and all the work my friend’s wife did in training the dog, it should only take a few more practices at this exercise before Marley gives up his habit of barking when people pass by the front of his home.

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