Q&A: How can I train my dogs not to bark at everything?

Question

I have to adopted dog, one is 12 and the other is one-and-a-half. I’ve always had issues with the older one barking at everyone who walks down the street – doesn’t matter inside or out, and especially if they’re walking a dog. Now he has taught our newest family member to do this.

How can I train my dogs not to bark at everything, and only bark if someone comes to the door, and to stop once I let them know it’s okay?

- Amy

Answer

Hi Amy,
 
When trying to resolve just about any behavior issue, one of the first things to do is employ management to prevent the practice of the behavior. Remember, that each time a behavior is practiced it is becoming a stronger habit. An example of management is keeping a dog on leash when greeting visitors at the front door in order to be able to hold, step on, or tether the leash to a stable object to prevent the practice of the behavior of jumping up.
 
Of course, training is important as well. In this case, that might be teaching your dog to keep four feet on the floor when greeting people by setting up practice greeting sessions and rewarding the dog for four on the floor, and turning or walking away when he jumps.
 
In the case of dogs alerting to people passing by on the street, you should start by managing your dogs as best as possible to prevent them from being stimulated and then alerting to activity on the street. Depending on the set up of your house, this might mean having them contained in a room away from the windows that face front, in crates, or closing the curtains. 
 
In addition, you need to teach them to be reliably responsive to your requests to do this like hand targeting, sitting, and lying down, first when they are not in a high state of arousal. Consider that if this is not the case, then the odds of them responding reliably to you when you ask them to come away front he window when they are about to or already in the state of alerting is slim. So, if need be, work on these skills in 3-5 minute sessions. 
 
Then, you should plan on inviting a friend over for some practice sessions where they act as the person passing by and you practice the skills mentioned above with your dogs. With lots of practice, your dogs will learn to be more responsive to you should you need to call them away from alerting.
 
Woofs!
Andrea

About Andrea Arden

Andrea can be seen on Animal Planet's shows Dogs 101, Cats 101, Pets 101, America's Cutest Dog and America's Cutest Cat. She is the author of numerous best-selling books on animal behavior and training. Andrea is thrilled to be a part of Pets for Patriots' efforts to help its members successfully adopt and share their lives with shelter pets! Read more...