Ask an Expert - Barking at Guests
Ask Inger Martens
Q: How can I get my Akitas to stop barking at people who come into my house? If I have people over for dinner, the dogs eventually stop, but as soon as someone attempts to get up from the table, they start the barking again!—Deafened in Dallas
A: Barking can make many dog owners crazy and guests uneasy. Especially the barking of two Akitas who appear to be ruling the roost! So much for a happy hello…. Here’s the translation and meaning behind those barks and the scoop on how to solve the problem.
To a degree, barking is a normal communication for a dog to alert you that someone’s at the door. The issue that alarms me, as a trainer, is not so much the barking at the front door, but rather the barking at your guests when they get up from the table. The two of them barking at a movement can represent the beginning of an even bigger territorial issue.
Dog’s are den and pack animals, this is a Fido fact. Therefore, both dogs need to look to you, the owner, for direction. If none is provided, they will do their thing. Barking at guests who are merely getting up from the table is warning you by your dogs. They are telling you that they don’t trust the intruders in THEIR house. Here’s the clincher: it’s not their house—it’s YOURS! The most awesome thing you can do is to get organized and redirect your dogs prior to guests coming over.
Applying a den concept by providing a space within your house will give the dogs a sense of security and send a signal to them that things are in your hands. This type of behavioural modification will benefit your dogs and you can reclaim your own house. All that’s needed is just a little positive reinforcement and a little reverse psychology on your part. Both your guests and your dogs will love it.
Create a new ritual with a baby gate. Prior to guests coming over, Dog A is gated with a chew bone, music, and the command “wait.” Dog B gets to greet the guests at the door on a leash and in a “sit/stay” position. The leash allows you to enforce positive commands. As you guide your dog to sit, gently lift up on the leash. This process is what creates the eye contact and gives the positive direction from you to your dog that was missing.
Separating the dogs will help break the “dynamic duo” pattern and create a new way of greeting guests. At the next dinner party, you can switch dogs. Another great thing to do in order to reverse this “bark fest” is to have the guest who is saying hello, do so with a cookie.
Both dogs will learn (over time) to greet guests individually and enjoy your guests one at a time until a new pattern as a greeting evolves. Now that’s a happy hello.
Inger Martens is a celebrity dog trainer and behavioral expert. An author, television and radio personality, she has been dubbed “Best Dog Trainer in LA” by Los Angeles magazine. She is currently excited to announce her new online resource for dog owners, pawsforaminute.com.