When the Smiths' little terrier puppy sees someone new approach them on walks, or pass the house or come up the walkway, he barks hysterically and excitedly. The puppy won’t respond to entreaties from his owners to be quiet, so they raise their voices, which escalates the puppy's emotional state and makes him bark even more excitedly. This results in the Smith family yelling at and punishing the puppy, which causes the puppy to become anxious and his barks to become more frantic, well you get the picture, it’s a vicious circle!
Most of us want our dog to bark when a stranger approaches our house and maybe even look a little menacing to let the stranger know that the dog is on the job and protecting their owner and property. Unfortunately, many dogs seem to bark out of control, not stopping when directed and becoming over excited, and even hysterical when barking. The attempts of many owners to stop this behavior only contributes to a heightened emotional reaction from the young dog. A dog that is out of control and barking excitedly is not only annoying, if the barking is unwarranted and needs to stop, but does not present the picture of a dog that could be directed to protect if necessary, or directed at all! How do you let your puppy bark, to alert you someone is coming, but do so calmly and stop when directed?
Dogs that bark in an overexcited, emotional state are actually less intimidating as watch or guard dogs because they are not paying any attention to their handlers and could not be directed to protect if required. For most of us, we don't really require an actual aggressive guard dog, we just want to be alerted, calmly, when someone is coming up the driveway and then be able to direct our dog to be quiet. Some dogs become so fixated and excited by the approach of a stranger, or even a friend, that they lunge and bark, and cannot be stopped. This behavior is very disruptive.
You want your dog to be able to bark without going into that overexcited, unstable, anxious, fearful and aggressive emotional state, so he is doing a job, not reacting to a situation! The key is to teach your puppy that barking is a job or a task, not a reaction. You want to direct both starting and stopping barking and separate this behavior from emotional reactions. Barking should be triggered by an actual event, not excitement, and be able to be controlled with a verbal command to cease barking when the situation no longer warrants it. A young dog or puppy can be taught that barking is a job he can do, alerting you when someone is approaching, and that he will be rewarded for doing the job appropriately. Also, it is important that he can be directed to stop barking when it is no longer necessary. No nonsense, no hysteria, just a simple job! Easy right?!
If you use an assistant to trigger barking it will help you control the training process and help take the emotional component out of barking being triggered, since you are expecting the trigger, and not concerned about someone being anxious or upset by your puppy barking, which contributes to an overexcited, anxious state. Also, have treats and patience, so your puppy learns that barking is a behavior he can be directed to perform and stop. Do not ever get excited yourself, yell at, or punish a barking puppy, as this will only cause your puppy to become the opposite of calm. Instead, if you are excited, he will become excited and fearful, and escalate the problem behavior.