How to Train a Dog Not to Bark at Strangers

It can be embarrassing when your dog barks at every opportunity. It can also be a little frustrating for your neighbors and people passing on the street. If your dog is barking every time the doorbell rings or each time you see a stranger, it’s time to change its behavior.

There are many reasons why a dog barks, and sometimes it can be a good thing to ward off potential threats. But if you can’t walk down the street without your dog barking at everyone you pass, that’s a problem.

It’s simple to train your dog if you take your time and have patience. We’ll let you know what you need to do and how you should behave with your dog in order to stop them barking.

We’ll go through the following points:

  • What does it mean when a dog barks at a stranger? 
  • How to train your dog not to bark at strangers
  • How do I train my dog not to barking public
  • What not to do with a barking dog
  • What’s the best device to stop barking?
  • Best dog barking deterrent 
  • When to get help with a barking dog
  • Plus pro tips!

What does it mean when a dog barks at a stranger?

Dogs bark for many reasons, some of these are to warn you off, and others may be a friendly greeting. However, when your pet starts barking at every stranger they see, it can become frustrating and embarrassing. It can also be a little bit scary for the person that the dog’s barking at, especially if your dog is a large breed.

Some of the reasons that your dog may bark are:

Territorial barking

Your dog could be protecting their territory from a stranger, and their bark is to warn them. You can see by your dog’s body language if they are barking for this reason. Their body will become stiff and their hackles raised if they see the stranger as a potential threat.

While it’s great for your pet to be protecting your home, it’s not good for your neighbors as it will cause a disturbance. This behavior may deter potential threats such as burglars from your home, but they will also put anyone else off from visiting.

If your dog hasn’t had any socialization training sessions, it won’t be used to other dogs or people. This could be a reason to protect their territory from strangers.

Alarm barking

This is similar to territorial barking, where your dog sees something that it thinks is unusual, so it feels the need to let everyone know. It could be that someone is coming to your door, or your neighbor is getting in their car. It could even be that there’s a bird in your garden. 

The slightest change will get them excessive barking, letting you know that something’s happening. It’s like having a very loud nosey neighbor in your home. 

Attention-seeking barking 

Many dogs demand attention all the time when you’re home. This has been especially so over the last couple of years, with more and more people working from home. They’ve been used to having you around and getting the attention that they crave.

If you’re not paying attention to your dog petting them or playing with them, they may come over and prompt you by nosing at your hand. If you continue to ignore them, they will start to bark until you pay them the attention that they’re looking for. 

Greeting barking 

When someone new comes into your home, your dog will get excited. This is a new person to play with and give them attention. They will start to bark as a greeting, welcoming the person into your home. You can tell your dog is barking as a greeting if her body language is loose, and she may even be wagging her tail and jumping around a little.

While this is a good thing for your dog, the person entering your home may not feel the same way. They could be threatened by the behavior rather than feeling welcomed. 

Your dog may also greet people as they pass when walking outside. They’re happy to see people that they don’t know, but the stranger may feel threatened by the behavior.

Frustration-induced barking 

Dogs get frustrated and bored, just like us humans. However, they let us know that they’re frustrated by barking rather than explaining what the issue is. They may be bored or frustrated as they can’t get to the squirrel running around the garden. It may be that they’re looking for your attention, and you’re busy, so aren’t responding to them.

There are many ways that our pets become frustrated, and a dog’s bark is the only way that they can let us know. 

How to train your dog not to bark at strangers

Your dog may think that it’s being friendly by barking at everyone it meets while on a walk, or it may think that it’s helping you by warning people to not come too close.

Whatever the reason, when your dog constantly barks at strangers, it can be embarrassing and very frustrating. A quiet, peaceful walk becomes a stressful struggle.

There are several ways that you can train your dog to not bark at strangers, and some of these are below: 

Teach the “Quiet” command 

Most dogs understand commands well when trained properly. The quiet command can be used when your dog is in the presence of a stranger and starts to bark. You can let them bark a couple of times and then use the command ‘quiet.’ If they don’t understand at the beginning of the training, you could also gently hold their muzzle, so that they understand what quiet means.

If they become quiet, give them a treat, and praise them. If they then start to bark again, use the command and reward them again if they are quiet. Do this every time they start barking, and they will gradually learn to remain quiet.

Pro tip: It may sound counterintuitive, but you can also praise your dog for alerting you and barking! When your dog barks at something, tell them what a good watchdog they are, and that you can take it from here. Many dogs calm down when they hear soft praise, as it signals that you are happy and comfortable with the situation. Then you can give your “quiet” command.

Identify and remove the motivation for barking

Dogs don’t usually bark for no reason. You will need to identify what motivates them to bark and then remove them from the situation.

If your dog stands at the window, barking at everyone that passes your house, close the curtains so that they can’t see outside, or don’t allow them in the room. Window clings can also help to obscure your dog’s view but still let light in.

If they’re outside in the yard and are barking at strangers, bring them inside. The dog needs to learn that if they bark at something, they will be moved so that they can no longer see the subject that motivates them to bark.

This is the same if you’re out for a walk and they start to bark at a stranger. Turn around and walk in the opposite direction. 

Use desensitization

By getting your dog familiar with strangers or things that motivate them to bark, it will no longer be thrilling for them to bark. Add to this some dog treats, and they will be happy to go along with your plan.

It could be people passing the window or ringing the doorbell. If you give them treats and tell them to keep calm, they will get used to the situation, and it will no longer trigger a barking response.

Change your dog’s emotional response 

If your dog responds to someone negatively by barking at them, you need to change their emotions towards that person. This can be done by getting your dog to associate that person with good things, like treats.

Get the person to stand quite far away from you and your dog, and gradually get them to move closer. As they move towards you, give your pet a treat when quiet to stop them barking. Do this every time they move closer, and this will get your dog to associate the stranger with a treat. They will no longer see them as a threat that they need to warn you about by barking.

Teach your dog an incompatible alternative behavior 

One of the ways to stop your dog from barking at strangers when on a walk, or if they’re walking past your house is to teach them an alternate behavior. Distract them from their focus with a toy or a treat, they will then learn to ignore their original focus.

Pro tip: if your dog really likes toys, make it their “job” to carry a toy on walks! It is much harder to bark with a toy in your mouth. Avoid balls, as a dropped ball can easily roll into the street.

Provide exercise and enrichment

Dogs could use barking as a way to reduce the boredom of staying home all day. Make sure that your dog is given lots of attention and exercise. This will not only make them feel loved but will tire them out, and they won’t have the energy to sit barking all day.

Pro tip: feeding meals in puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys can make mealtimes more engaging and take longer to entertain your pup.

Socialize your dog

Dogs need to be socialized from a very young age as this will get them familiar with other animals and people. They will no longer see them as a threat or be overly excited to see them.

How do I train my dog not to bark in public?

Some dogs are quiet and well-behaved at home but become loud and unruly when outdoors. Many are sensitive to unfamiliar surroundings and overcome this by barking. Training your dog to stop barking in public will take time and patience, and the first thing you need to do is to understand the reason why they bark.

It could be that they feel threatened and bark to want people away, or it could be that certain actions make them anxious or overexcited, such as people running or cycling. 

Start by taking your dog on short walks to get them used to their surroundings. When they’re well behaved, praise them and give them a small treat. Start with a quiet, boring location and then gradually move to busier places. They will soon be going on longer walks without any issues.

What not to do

Whatever training methods you use for your dog, you don’t punish or shout at them. This will only make them more stressed by the situation, and they will bark more. After all, yelling is basically the human version of barking.

A dog, just like other animals and us humans, reacts well to praise and rewards. If they behave badly, don’t reward them, they will soon learn that they have to do as they are told if they want to get a treat. 

Yelling at them won’t do you, or your pet any good and will make the situation worse.

What is the best device to stop dog barking?

You can now buy lots of different bark control devices to stop your dog from barking. 

Some of these are units that can be placed around the house, giving out an ultrasonic noise that only your dog can hear. Others can be held in your hand and used when you’re outdoors, giving out an ultrasonic sound when your dog starts barking to stop them from barking when outside.

You can also purchase a training collar for your dog to be worn around its neck and either give out a sound, vibration, or even a stimulating shock to deter your dog from barking. Automatic collars usually work better than ones controlled by a button that you press because the automatic collars are more consistent.

Best dog barking deterrent

A training collar for your dog will have different settings, which are used to stop a dog’s barking. These will use ultrasonic sounds, vibrations, or will give your dog a small shock when they start to bark.

Our favorite dog training collar is the Pet Resolve Training collar kit, as this includes everything you need to teach your dog not to bark. It has a beep mode as well as a stimulating mode with different strength levels.

The best ultrasonic dog bark control

Ultrasonic bark controls for your dog can either be positioned in your house or garden, or they can be handheld so that they’re portable and can be taken out with you when walking your dog.

These devices use ultrasonic waves to give out a noise that only your dog can hear. It won’t harm their hearing but will be loud enough to get them to wonder what it is and want it to stop. When used regularly your dog will learn that the noise is associated with their barking, and will stop barking to stop the noise. 

Our favorite ultrasonic anti-barking device is the Ultrasonic dog barking deterrent. It is designed to be mounted on an outside wall and has a range of up to 50 feet. 

When to get help

If you have tried all of the above and your dog continues to bark, don’t be afraid to speak to a professional. A certified professional dog trainer or behavioral therapist will be able to look at your dog’s behavior and recommend additional training techniques for them.

If they are a rescue dog, it could be that they have deeper issues than a dog who has been living in a loving home since it was a puppy. 

A professional dog trainer will advise on the best approach to take both at home, and outdoors with your dog.

Key points on getting a dog to stop barking at strangers

It can be frustrating when your dog barks at strangers. It can also be quite stressful for anyone coming to your house and it may prevent them from visiting.

There is always a reason for your dog to bark at a stranger. It could be due to them feeling threatened or anxious. It could also be down to them being excited to see someone that they don’t know. If they’re at home for hours on their own, they may become bored and get excited if someone passes your window.

The first thing you need to do is understand the reason for their barking. You can then choose the most suitable option to teach your dog not to bark. It may be that using a command such as ‘quiet’ may help your dog to stop barking and may encourage calm behavior. If you pair this with a treat if they remain quiet, they will learn to not bark.

Socialization and familiarization will help your dog to feel comfortable in its surroundings, and this will stop it from feeling the need to bark at strangers.

how-to-train-a-dog-not-to-bark-at-strangers

You love your dog, especially when they are on their best behavior. But it can be hard if they spend the day barking at everyone that walks past your house or you see on the street when out walking. It can be embarrassing if everyone you meet crosses the road to avoid your barking dog or the neighbors start to complain about the noise.

Understanding why your barking dog feels the need to make so much noise is the first step to stopping them. The reason they bark could be simple to rectify with a little extra training, but it could run deeper if they have come from a rescue background.

Kate Basedow, LVT
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