In the home, when visitors approach, the dog has nowhere to flee, so it will often choose the second defense response – to freeze, which can manifest itself in the form of barking.
In a moment when danger presents itself you need to display a calm reaction to show your dog that as its leader, you are aware of the danger and will deal with it.
So, for example, if the doorbell rings, causing your dog to bark, you should thank your dog for doing its job by saying ‘good boy/girl’ or ‘thank you’ in a happy tone. After all, it is a subordinate’s job to alert the leader. If your dog continues to bark, you should go to have a look at what the problem is, demonstrating the clear message that you acknowledge their concerns and are investigating the situation. By this time many dogs will observe your calm reaction to the perceived danger and, seeing that you are okay with it, will calm down.
If, however, you have investigated the perceived danger and your dog is still barking and behaving erratically, then you need to isolate it. You can do this by gently taking hold of its collar and putting it in another room and closing the door. You should not speak to or look at your dog at any point during this action, as doing so will confuse the message. By isolating your dog, you are giving it time to calm down and reflect on what happened, whilst also conveying the powerful signal that you are the one who deals with danger and that being stressed results in them being separated from the pack.
Once your dog has calmed down and stopped barking, you can let it join you again. Do not look at your dog when you let it rejoin the pack; rather, just go back to what you are doing. To reinforce the message that it is not his job to worry, you should also tell visitors/family members not to look at or speak to your dog when it returns to the room, as this can be perceived as looking to them for action. If your dog continues to bark, repeat the process until it relaxes and understands that you are dealing with things.
It doesn’t matter what the perceived danger is, be it other dogs on the television, loud noises, people walking past your home or the neighbours dog. The idea is to reassure your dog and get in front of it every time they look concerned.
Imagine how you would feel if someone actively demonstrated they would protect you over and over again. Overtime with many lessons the dog’s confidence will grow in both your position as leader and how they feel in their environment.
Here is a video demonstrating the method in action with a stressed German Shepherd called Jazz.
Nigel Reed is an Amazon best selling author and dog behaviourist with 15 years experience. He lives in London, England with his wife Stephanie and his daughter Amélie. His goal is to help 100 000 dogs in his lifetime which he plans to do this through online courses, talks, his book The Dog Guardian and online videos which he receives 10’s of thousands of views each month. He is also very keen to travel the U.S to help owners better understand their dogs.
For more information on how to ensure your dog is happy and well behaved buy my book from Amazon : The Dog Guardian: Your Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Dog