Barking at Things Outside the House
Updated: Dec 27, 2021
For a long time, we bred dogs to bark! It's handy to know that someone is approaching your home. Sometimes though, barking can be stressful for us and our dogs, or even excessive. (Instincts + genetics + mailman goes away when I bark = BARK BARK BARK!) The good news is that we can reduce it!
Thank You Routine
This teaches your dog to come to you and then sit or lie down and settle when she starts barking at something outside the house while she is inside. (You could also choose "down" or "stand" instead!)
To start, stand next to your dog. Say her name and then "thank you”, and then give her a treat, regardless of what she’s doing. Repeat until she turns her head and/or starts moving toward you when you say it.
Next, toss a treat toward your window/door where barking often occurs. As your dog finishes eating, say “thank you” from a few steps away. Mark "yes" as soon as she turns to you and cheerlead her on until she gets to you for her treat!
Teach your dog that she should stick around! (This helps prevent her from later just grabbing a cookie and running back to bark.) When she returns to you, begin giving her multiple cookies, one cookie at a time. When you've given 2 - 5 cookies total, say "okay" and stop giving her treats. The word "okay" lets her know she can go do dog things again.
Increase the time between your treats so that your dog can hang out with you for 30 seconds or so for up to 5 treats. This is important, as this will be the time the outside trigger will still be present and we're asking her to ignore it.
Repeat the toss and call game several times for 1 - 2 minutes at most. You want her happily leaving the area and coming to you, and hanging out with you until you say "okay".
Repeat this with real life things your dog barks at! You may need to feed faster and with better treats initially to help her out.
Slowly add in some distance, so that she can learn to come to you from the window/door regardless of where you are.
The goal is for your dog to go to you as soon as she hears “thank you” after the first bark or two. Then, she sits and gets intermittently rewarded until the passerby is likely gone. (Some dogs even learn to come to you when they see something outside, be ready to reward this, too!)
It can be handy to keep treats in easy reach in the room where you normally spend your time.
While you’re not home or can’t train, it’s very helpful to prevent barking practice! You can play white noise, keep certain blinds shut, and/or cover windows with window clings.
Your dog might need some extra help with more intense triggers at first! (Remember, she needs to go to High School and College before doing PhD work!) Having her drag a leash so you can remove her from the window and help her come to you is one way to do it. You can also just remove her completely and calmly if she can't stop barking even with food.
This program helps minimize how often and how long your dog barks for. It’s unlikely that we will stop a dog from barking entirely, but we can find out how much we can reduce it!
If you're not seeing what you would hope for, let us know! There are many ways to help dogs out!