My dogs keep barking at the front window every time people, and especially people with dogs, go by. It’s driving me mad; I’ve tried telling them off, but it’s not working, what can I do?
Denise Price advises…
Boundary or alert barking is a ‘normal’ behaviour for dogs – it’s kind of what they do! However, it isn’t appropriate for this to be excessive because that drives everyone to distraction, not just you and your neighbours, but your dogs too. If they are constantly on watch duty, they will have regular spikes of excitement when people pass by; heightened vigilance means regular surges of adrenaline. Without time for this hormone to subside with rest, your dogs aren’t doing their stress levels any favours. So, it’s definitely something to resolve for everyone’s sake.
It’s really common for owners to raise their voices at their dogs when they bark and, as you’ve discovered, it really doesn’t help. It just adds to the commotion, confirming to the dogs that they’re doing the right thing in making a lot of noise.
The first, and simplest, thing to do is to restrict their access to the front window. Frosted windows, blinds or locating your dogs in another room, can help. The less they get to repeat the barking, the better. Next, you need to change what you do if they bark – as I said, it is normal for a little woof if strangers are approaching, so acknowledge them calmly and then give them something to do.
The trickiest bit is teaching them the all-important ‘settle’. To teach your dogs to go to their beds and settle, begin when there are no distractions around. Use treats to get them to their bed and gradually increase the length of time you ask them to settle there. Provide long duration edibles, such as stuffed Kongs, to ensure they really enjoy being in their beds. They will probably appreciate the rest after being on watch duty for all this time!