Ron and Pee Wee ask:
Our four-year-old miniature
pinscher has a problem with barking when someone walks by our house or knocks
on the door. He gets plenty of exercise and we introduce him to strangers and
other dogs. If we could just get him over this he'd be the perfect mini pin.
Thank you, Ron and Pee Wee, for your
Great news! This is definitely something I can help
you with. But first you must understand why your dog is doing this behavior. If
you think about it . . . in the wild, predators don't come between two trees
and ask for permission to enter and visit a while. Predators come in to claim territory,
and that puts the rest of the pack in danger. This is what your dog is reacting
Basically when someone comes and
knocks on the door, the dog is doing everything in its power to encourage this
bad guy to leave while he still can. Although you might just hear, "Bark,
bark, bark!" Translated this comes out to . . . "I will eat you up
and spit you out! You're just lucky this door is protecting you!"
Right now when your dog is barking to warn you and is telling that predator to leave you probably start yelling for the dog to stop barking. The dog will only interpret this as you barking thinking that dad finally figured it out and that he must bark to warn this predator to leave also.
This is how it goes down in a dog's mind: There's a knock at the door, the dog barks which to him means "Mom! Dad! Potential bad guy!"
If you truly want your dog to stop barking you must praise him at this time. Yes! I said praise him. This will encourage him to stop barking. When the dog is warning you of the potential bad guy and you offer him praise you're simply telling your dog, "Thank you for warning me of a potential danger."
Let your dog bark for approximately 5 to 10 seconds. Now command your dog to stop. You must not only command him to stop, but you must also encourage him to step away from the door to a predetermined spot. After you have achieved this you will praise the dog again. This time when you praise the dog you are telling him "Thank you for letting me know that there is a potential bad guy. Now I have looked and have decided it is safe so be quiet."
Tip: I also would suggest that you do not use certain words such as "shut up" or "be quiet" to tell your dog to turn off. I would use a different command such as "leave it" or "no bark". If there is a bad guy is sneaking around your house, the first thing they're going to say to your dog is "shut up" or "quiet". You don't want your dog to obey at that point.
To recap the reasons we praise the dog in the beginning is to thank him for warning us. We praise him again for stopping and turning off. This ensures us that the dog will continue to let you know when somebody's around your house but will also assure you that he will stop barking when you tell him to leave it.
This might sound complicated but it is truly very simple. After all you and your dog want the same thing which is a well-balanced pack.
If you have any questions about your dog's behavior, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Rick will answer in his column. For any information on group or private lessons, you can call Rick at: 951-354-PAWS (951-354-7297)