How to stop your dog's territorial barking

Territorial barking can sound scary, but almost always, the barking is rooted in fear.  So most times, the dog is barking to make the scary thing go away and/or reduce their stress in the situation.  It could be a neighbor, a mailman, a biker, a jogger, a delivery man or another dog, and your dog thinks his barking is working, because these things inevitably leave the scene after he barks.  It is a difficult thing to extinguish and is embarrassing most times for the dog’s guardians.  However, it is possible to substantially reduce territorial barking or extinguish it completely.


Punishment does not work – it will only cause more anxiety in your dog.  So please dispose of the shock collar, bark collar, can of coins or sound devices.  Yelling definitely does not help.  Positive reinforcement is the way to go.  But there is a technique to this game.


You may have to start inside the house or on the front/back porch.  The first step is to capture a calm, quiet behavior.  Use a leash to start out with so you can keep your dog close to you.  Then, stand with your dog facing out toward the “danger zone”.  You will need to look for signs that your pup is getting ready to bark.  Usually a stiff mouth, ears and tail, a stare, and holding their breath are good signs it’s about to happen.  At that point you should mark the moment (before they bark) with a “yes!” or a clicker and treat your dog.  You should also look for times when your dog is calmer – regular breathing, relaxed tail and head movements toward you are all good signs your dog is relaxing – go ahead and mark that and give a treat.


At further distances from the stimulus, your dog may still be “with you” and not focused on the stimulus. This is called “below threshold”.  This is a good place to be if there is room at your home, as your dog may still be on high alert, but will probably not be going ballistic and thus be unreachable.  This is a great place to be to reward your dog for looking at the stimulus, then look at you, then mark and treat.


If stimuli are unavailable at the moment, use a toy or a plastic bottle or something that will catch his eye.  Tell your dog to look at the stimulus, then look at you – mark and treat.    As your dog begins to handle his calm reaction to stimuli, you can give him more slack, like on a long line.  Eventually, you will want your dog to look at the stimulus and then come to you to check in for the mark “yes!” and treat.


In addition to the above techniques, you will want to heavily reward your dog every time he hears his name.  Practice this inside with no distractions at first – call his name and when he comes, make a big deal, mark and treat.  Do this a few times a day.  Over a period of weeks you can call his name when a stimulus appears to help him make the right decision of coming to you for the treat.


Another separate technique is to teach your dog the “away” command.  With a 6 or 8 foot leash, walk the perimeter of the fence line, often walking directly away from the line, marking the movement with a click or “yes!”, say “away” and treat.  In time you can instruct your dog to move away from the fence line in advance of an oncoming stimulus or sometimes even when the stimulus is nearby.


You will also want to make sure your pup is up to speed on all his obedience commands, sit, down, stay, come, place, leave it, drop it, look at me, and even heel.  The more commands your dog knows and the more often you practice, the more your dog will yield to you when it comes to reacting to stimuli.

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