If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of dogs, then you’ve probably noticed at least one house that seems to always have a dog posted in the window. When you pass by, they may stare you down as though they are seething from some internal conflict. If the dog is having a particularly bad day, it may bark or lunge in a frenzy at you as you pass by, leaving you a little shaken up or wondering if the dog is okay.
Your own dog might sit in the window from time to time, and you might encounter dogs that sit calmly in windows as you pass by. At first, the behavior is nothing to be concerned about. If your dog sits in the window all the time, every day, and isn’t paid much attention to, the behavior could become problematic. Here’s what you should know about dogs that sit by windows, and what you can do to keep your dog from becoming an aggressive window ornament.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs that sit in the window do not originally do so out of aggression, nor is it likely that they do it as a display of dominance, as some people believe. There are several theories about why dogs sit in the window, and most of them have to do with the simple fact that looking out the window is stimulating. Though dogs do not rely on their sight as their primary sense, they can still see fairly clearly at distances of up to 20 feet. They can see other animals, pedestrians, cars, and anything going on right outside the window. All of these different happenings are exciting for your dog, and oftentimes, other behaviors arise as a result of this basic desire to interact with external stimuli.
The most common behavioral problem to arise as a result of dogs sitting in the window is barking. There may be several different reasons behind a dog barking at the window, but the most common is that your dog feels compelled to alert you to something going on outside. This is an umbrella explanation for behaviors like barking at the mailman, barking when someone comes home, or barking during severe weather. If you routinely yell at your dog to quiet down, you may accidentally be contributing to your dog’s barking! Your dog most likely sees yelling as your way of barking along too, and this will further encourage him to bark at things going on outside.
Windows provide a barrier to the outside world, and this barrier can turn calm, observant dogs into pent-up, frustrated barkers. Although the outside world is stimulating, dogs can feel frustrated or anxious when they discover that they aren’t able to get outside and play. Watching other dogs go for walks or seeing another animal outside can be extremely frustrating for dogs that are stuck behind the glass window. This feeling is referred to as barrier frustration. Though it may start from something as innocent as looking through the window, the frustration of not being able to play with something outside could build up until your dog constantly feels angry and becomes aggressive.
Encouraging the Behavior
It is okay to let your dog look out the window from time to time, provided that they have an outlet for their energy. Your dog won’t become a raging barker overnight, but after several weeks or months of repeatedly experiencing barrier frustration, your dog may start to become more aggressive towards strangers and external stimuli. In order to prevent this, try limiting the time that your dog gets to spend in the window, or find a way to prevent your dog from looking around outside. This won’t make your dog feel cramped. In fact, it will remove a significant amount of stress from your dog’s life. Focus on rewarding your dog for playing with toys inside and create a home environment that is just as fun and interesting as whatever could be going on outside.
Once barrier frustration has become ingrained in your dog’s character, training it out of them could prove difficult. Depending on how the behavior has caused barrier frustration, you may spend weeks or months teaching your dog not to be frustrated at external stimuli. Reward your dog for remaining calm and not barking at passing strangers. If you notice that your dog is staring out the window in a tense and unrelaxed manner, try calming him down and then rewarding him for finding another activity to engage in. Over time, you will begin to undo the long-term effects of barrier frustration and show your dog that there is no need to be frustrated.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Barrier frustration is not limited to dogs who sit by windows. Another common manifestation of this phenomenon is “chain rage,” which happens to dogs who are chained to a leash outside all day. You may even see this behavior in dogs who are outside and surrounded by a chain-link fence. They can see you, but they are unable to interact with you. In all of these cases, the desire to play and interact with objects out of their reach leads to frustration, and eventually, rage. This behavior can complicate other behavioral issues, as well. Dogs who suffer from barrier frustration tend to experience an overwhelming amount of stress and may start to act out in other ways in order to dispel their stress.
You and your dog might both enjoy staring out the window. Just remember that your dog might be getting a little too into it, at times. Try not to give your dog the window seat when he will be left alone, unsupervised for long stretches of time. You are the most interesting and exciting part of their day, so make sure that you set them up for a healthy and engaging day even when you aren’t able to be there.