When a delivery person comes to the door, Lana’s Cocker Spaniel starts barking. At first, Lana thought this was good; her dog was warning her when someone approached the door. However, her little dog’s behavior soon became out of control, with hysterical barking that does not stop until long after the delivery person has left. Lana does not mind her dog barking a few times to warn her someone is approaching, she just wants the deranged barking to cease, and for her little Cocker Spaniel to be quiet when she directs her to stop barking. Shouldn't be too much to ask right?
The fact is, dogs bark to protect you and their property, which is natural. However, when barking becomes out of control or your dog does not respond to commands to stop barking, you have a problem. Cocker Spaniels can be high strung, vocal dogs, so your Cocker Spaniel is particularly prone to develop a habit of barking at delivery people. The reason this behavior can be difficult to eradicate is that the behavior is self-rewarding. A stranger approaches your dog's territory, your dog barks, the stranger leaves, your Cocker Spaniel wins! Breaking this habit is going to require some ingenuity. Fortunately, there are several successful strategies for getting your Cocker Spaniel to stop barking at delivery people.
Getting your Cocker Spaniel to stop barking at delivery people, after a brief alert that someone has approached, will require consistency and dedication. You ultimately want your Cocker Spaniel to respond to your command to stop barking once you have been alerted. Teaching your Cocker Spaniel to bark on command is, ironically, useful for teaching him not to bark, as it teaches him that barking is something you do when asked and stop doing when asked. Teaching behaviors that are incompatible with barking and creating a positive association with delivery people, so that your Cocker Spaniel learns that your delivery person is not there to axe murder the whole family, are also useful strategies. Working with a young dog is the easiest, as they will not have had time to develop a barking habit yet, which may be hard to break. Older dogs can also be taught to be quiet when delivery people approach the house, but training may require more time and consistency.
Having an assistant play the delivery person will be extremely useful so that you can control the situation and be prepared to direct your dog. If you rely on actual delivery people to trigger the unwanted behavior, you may be caught unprepared or stressed out trying to teach your dog and deal with a delivery at the same time. If your assistant can come dressed similar to a mail or delivery person and carry packages, that is even better for simulating the actual situation. Have treats ready to reinforce positive behavior. Avoid punishing or yelling at your barking Cocker Spaniel, as this only creates excitement and tension and gives him attention for his barking behavior (even if it is negative), which generally escalates the behavior.