Strangers at the house - How to train not to bark when I'm there?
My girl is almost 9 months, and an emerging issue is how she treats unfamiliar people that have 'crossed the boundary' (Entry doors/back yard). Situations where a stranger breaks the boundary are about the only time she uses the big dog bark. For the appearance of a guard dog when I'm not home, I really don't mind that she does this.
The problematic aspect of it is when I'm home. Even if the person enters the house with me, she'll sometimes charge them up until about a 4-5ft standoff, then bark. What would be optimal is if she would disregard / positively respond to people that are being acknowledged by me.
The 'strangers giving treats' approach outside of the house worked fantastic, and she positively engages most people in public (she shys away otherwise). I worry, however that doing this for people entering the house makes the positive connection to ALL strangers, and can knock out the barking at intruders perk...
I'm sure this is something that everyone to some varying extent has addressed, because it seems that this is playing into some kind of emerging territorial/protective impulse. That being said, if anyone could share some insight on how they addressed it, I and the handful of future utility and delivery people that would have scared the crap out of would be most thankful!
What is the likelihood of an intruder coming into your home vs a friendly stranger? While it's certainly possible, I'm guessing that invited guests are a much more common occurrence, as it is in most people's homes. For that reason, I make greeting guests properly a much higher priority than worrying about someone breaking in when we're not home. Also, my dogs barking is enough of a deterrent, IMO, that an intruder is even less likely. Why risk it when there are other homes nearby without big barking dogs?
Last but not least: give your dog some credit for knowing the difference between friendly strangers and those with intent to harm. Your demeanor when bringing friends home is happy, calm, and relaxed, and she is quite capable of learning to discriminate based on how YOU act and feel in various circumstances, you just need to teach her how to greet those people appropriately.
Many people have been surprised at their super friendly dog's reaction when they actually were in a situation where they felt threatened.
If I see something that I don't like, I figure out either a behaviour to replace it or capture the good in a behaviour and shape it.
So for instance with the barking, when someone comes to our door Delgado will run to the door and bark once, then run back to me and wait quietly. I walk to the door and Delgado follows in a heel and then he sits beside me and I open the door and greet whoever is there.
It's all shaping. So start small and capture one behaviour, then another and coreograph them together like a dance. So bark once, run back to mom, wait for her to acknowledge, walk to door, sit at door, greet guests quietly. I use a clicker which I find very helpful in shaping, but if you prefer choose a marker word and work with the dog
It doesn't happen overnight, but you'll probably be surprised at how fast they pick it up. Think about it from their perspective: they get to do all the things they WANT to do (alert, bark, greet) but when they do it the way YOU train them they get mega praise! It's a huge bonus for them :)
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