Barking at the door and jumping on visitors are two issues, a lot of my clients complain about their dogs. Although the two issues are very different, they may just have the same solution. Before getting into how to resolve this behavior, let’s get some background information first. Some dogs bark because they want to protect their familiar surroundings, some bark, because they are scared or excited and some just plain bark at everything. Many dogs get inadvertently reassured when they are barking at the door, defending their home against a potential intruder. As they bark, whoever is in front of the door, the mailman for example, eventually goes away. ‘Wow!’, the dog thinks, ‘This guy was scared of me barking at him. It works!’. And the next time they bark even louder, because it worked the last time.
For many dogs, barking at the door is not a conscious behavior and punishing it does not necessarily work. Compare it to screaming out loud when being scared or wincing when in pain – you’d still do it the next time, even if someone yells at you to be quiet. Often times, jumping on visitors, is also not a conscious behavior. Some dogs just get too excited to keep still. You may have heard the old-fashioned dominance tale, which says that dogs, who jump on you when you come home, want to control you. I have even heard some say, that the dog wants to punish you for going away in the first place. Forget about that! That wiggly butt has no world domination thoughts, it just feels excitement and craves attention.
Although both behaviors, the barking and the jumping, come in most cases from a very natural subconscious place, it does not mean, that we have to tolerate them. Here are some hints on how to resolve this issues in a fair and effective way:
- Create an alternative action and give your dog a familiar command like ‘sit’ or ‘place’. A dog who sits, simply cannot jump and a dog who has to stay at his place, which can be his dog bed, cannot bark at the door. And it gives you the opportunity to reward your dog for a good execution of the command instead of ineffectively punish for bad behavior. Build and train the commands away from distractions until your dog reliably does what you ask, then gradually include distractions and increase the time, during which the dog has to stay in the position. Don’t move ahead too fast and don’t set your dog up to fail – give your dog the opportunity to earn that reward (by the way, cut up hot dogs work magic!). Don’t train for hours, just use minutes a couple of times a day, as long as it is still fun for you and your dog.
- Socialize your dog! It does not matter how old your dog is – unless you have a special needs dog, expose your dog to the world. Take him to public parks, introduce him to your neighbors and walk next to busy streets. Some stores allow you to take your dog with you, just remember to always clean up after your dog. A well socialized dog is less likely to act fearful or territorial.
- Keep your dog exercised, physically and mentally. A tired dog doesn’t care about the mailman or visitors that much and is happy to lay on your feet rather than pestering your visiting friends.