For our dogs, barking is one of their few means of communicating vocally with the world. From an excited, ‘Hello, notice me!’ to a territorial, ‘Back off, this place is mine!’, the meaning of a dog’s barks changes depending on the situation. With this in mind, barking at strangers is not at all uncommon for dogs—especially more territorial breeds. It can be quite the headache, especially if you live in a busy neighborhood!
If you’re concerned about your dog’s barking, or just starting to get a headache from the nonstop bark-fest any time someone walks by your house, here are a few tips on why your dog barks at strangers!
The Basics of Barking Body Language
Firstly it’s important to determine what kind of barking your pup is using to try to communicate with you or the stranger. This can sometimes be difficult to figure out, but if you look to the body language of your pet you can get a better picture of what’s likely going through their minds.
- Aggressive barking/snarls, bared teeth. Aggressive barking can be very scary, both for the owner and strangers. It’s important to understand that when your dog is being aggressive he’s often also frightened or feels threatened. An aggressive dog may go rigid, raise his/her tail and “flag” it sharply from side to side, their eyes may go wider than usual, and they may raise their ears and situate them forward. If your dog displays these signs when strangers are around it is important that you remain calm but firm and either have the stranger move away carefully or place your dog somewhere they feel safe.
- Overexcitement/normal tail wags, relaxed ears. Sometimes, most of the time in fact, barking isn’t aggressive. In many situations your dog might simply be happy to see someone new, and especially if they don’t see new people very much. It’s new, it’s different, and that gets them in the mood to romp, play, and yell. An overexcited dog might wag their tail (in a normal resting position), hop around, and overall will have a relaxed body language.
How Can I Stop the Barking?
First, it’s very important to understand that teaching your dog to not bark at strangers anymore is a process, and one that will take some time. The root of solving the issue lies in socializing your pet effectively. This is easiest to do when the dog is still very young, but even an old dog can learn new manners.
Your best means of stopping this behavior is to introduce your pet to new people. Take it slow and in doses, and when the dog behaves well reward with a lot of praise and treats.
Never yell at your dog, strike the dog, or yank on a leash. These will only make it worse, reinforcing the behavior. The dog only understands that bad things are happening when the stranger is around, and more bad things make for a more stressed pup.
Learn More About Dog Care & Behavior with Germantown Vet
Stressed out and not sure what to do about your dog’s bad manners? Contact Germantown Vet Clinic to learn more about behavior and health or to get more tips on how to teach your furry buddy to stop barking!