How to Train a Puppy to Stop Barking at Strangers

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Puppies can develop bad habits for any number of reasons. It could be a behavior that was inherited from the mother, or it could be due to a bad experience that happened at any point before your puppy came home with you. No matter the reason, even young puppies can show fear or aggression towards the unfamiliar. This can include both other animals as well as strange people, and this fear can manifest in a number of ways.

One of the more obvious ways that a puppy can respond to a strange person is to start barking. Barking is loud and noisy and has the capacity to scare some people away or prevent the puppy from being touched or handled by someone he is scared of. Barking is annoying at the best of times and intimidating at the worst and a puppy will quickly learn that it can be an effective tool. The only problem is, barking is not polite! On top of that, you certainly don’t want your puppy starting off with such a prominent fear. It’s important to nip this problem in the bud before it escalates.

Defining Tasks

Most puppies are fully capable of dropping bad habits and developing healthier ones, though it will heavily depend on the history, personality, and resilience of the individual. Some older dogs are largely incapable of escaping fear reactivity and therefore should rely on management of the fear, rather than a cure. This is where prevention comes in, which can be used for any puppy who may be too entrenched in his ways to be able to face the fear head-on.

The other methods rely on an eventual adaptation to strangers or a redirect to a more productive activity to remove stress and fear. Whichever method you choose, you should begin your training as early as possible to catch the problem before it can grow out of control and you should begin to see progress or a complete change in two to four weeks with consistency and repetition of your training techniques.

Getting Started

The best tools for training your puppy to stop barking at strangers are toys to act as distractions and treats to reinforce a more appropriate behavior. These treats should be especially tasty or interesting for your puppy. Try foods that he’s never had before or would not get on a typical day and save these treats for these special occasions.

If you’re working on management, you may want to find a crate to keep your puppy in when guests are over. Otherwise, arm yourself with patience. Your puppy is learning and will require plenty of guidance along the way.

The Management Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Avoid unplanned meetings
Try to know ahead of time when a guest may be coming over. Don’t surprise your puppy with a guest who may not understand his tendency to bark at strangers.
Step
2
Change directions on walks
If another person is coming your way, don’t hesitate to turn around and walk in another direction. Control your puppy’s line of sight if possible to keep him from stressing while he should be out exercising.
Step
3
Provide space away from guests
If you have to have guests or strangers over, provide a room away from the hustle and bustle where your puppy can relax and sleep it off. Provide white noise or a television playing to prevent him from hearing noise from outside the room.
Step
4
Use a crate
Work on crate training your puppy so he has a space to go when he is feeling overwhelmed and wants to bark. A crate can provide a little safe area for him to relax.
Step
5
Supervise outdoors
Keep an eye on your puppy whenever he is outside in the yard. Block the view of the street in front of or behind your house if possible to keep your puppy from seeing and barking at strangers.
Recommend training method?

The Redirection Method

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Effective
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Step
1
Catch the behavior
Watch for signs that your puppy is about to start barking. This can be preceded by growling or an unusual amount of focus.
Step
2
Use puzzle toys
Provide puzzle toys with treats inside to use as a distraction. Keep your puppy busy mentally and physically.
Step
3
Offer food or treats
Use small bits of food or treats as a distraction by themselves in order to prevent your puppy from barking. She will have a hard time making noise when her mouth is occupied.
Step
4
Ask for another behavior
Instead of barking, ask your puppy for a ‘sit’ or a ‘down’ and offer a reward. This can help her associate strangers with the more appropriate behavior.
Step
5
Start play time
Be a distraction yourself by offering to throw a ball or other toy for your puppy to fetch. Her focus can be placed on the act of playing rather than barking.
Recommend training method?

The Association Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Use a high value treat
Use treats that are rare and tasty. These treats should only be used when training your puppy around strangers to keep them novel and exciting.
Step
2
Offer the treat when a stranger is near
When a stranger is in your puppy’s line of sight, offer the treat. Strangers will mean good things.
Step
3
Have the stranger assist from afar
When possible ask the stranger or guest to help by handing them some treats to toss at your puppy from a safe distance. He may begin to understand that the stranger is a food dispenser.
Step
4
Treats go away when the stranger leaves
Put the treats away when the stranger or guest leaves. This will help your puppy associate the tastiest treats with the presence of strangers. There’s no reason to bark because strangers will always give treats!
Step
5
Decrease distance over time
As your puppy becomes more comfortable and less prone to barking, ask the guests or strangers to toss treats from closer each time you have an encounter until your puppy can take a treat from the palm of a stranger’s hand without barking.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ivey
Border Aussie
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ivey
Border Aussie
10 Months

My puppy barks at any new person they see. Inside or out. She is not aggressive, but more anxious and scared. Shes never bitten anyone, but its very difficult to take her out in public as she scares most people since she is a bigger dog.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Philip, I would start by desensitizing her to walking past strangers using the concepts of the passing approach method from the article linked below - this method is related to dogs, but the concepts of passing someone over and over again while working on obedience and rewarding good responses of calmness, tolerance, and focus on you, rather than fear responses. Gradually decreasing the distance between her and the people who are helping you as she improves - the important part is to look for not only a lack of fear aggressive response but specifically for times when pup is actually in a calmer mindset and reward that. Passing Approach method: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs As pup improves and can handle being close to people, then people can practice being in closer quarters (with safety measures as needed to avoid a fear bite), and tossing treats to pup when she is responding calmly around them. Have the people toss treats while acknowledging her very little when she does well. When pup can handle being around people in general in a variety of situations, then have people give her commands and let her work for the treat rewards to further build trust. Finally, have them go on walks with you, where you can hand off the leash to the other person and pup will follow them also, so that pup is working with and following more people in a calm, respect and trust, based relationship. Check out this playlist and especially the videos on things like Barking on a Walk or Barking at Strangers. This channel generally has a lot of examples of desensitization and counter conditioning, which are important if dealing with fearfulness. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a I can be hard to do all of this at the pace need, with the right body language and speed pup needs to keep everyone safe and improve, so this is often much easier when working with a great training group who has a staff of trainers for pup to get used to lots of people, not just the one trainer. Always take safety measures like back-ties, going at a safe training pace, reading body language, and using a basket muzzle if needed, to keep everyone involved in training and interactions safe. Muzzle training - I recommend basket muzzles when muzzles are needed because they are more comfortable and pup can still open their mouth to receive treats you pass through the muzzle to them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
ralph
cockapoo
6 Months
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Question
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ralph
cockapoo
6 Months

ralph will bark at anyone who enters the house even little children i want to help him to realise that not all people are threats. how can i do this

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Victoria, Check out the article I have linked below and the Desensitize and Quiet methods. Be sure to take safety measures like a back tie leash when necessary to keep people safe too. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Check out this series on barking and reactivity, especially the "STOP Barking at the Door" video, and "Barking at Strangers" video, to visually see a dog being desensitized to what they bark at as well. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nala
Labrador Retriever
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Nala
Labrador Retriever
6 Months

Nala is fearful of strangers we took her to a cafe every time door opened she barked. When people approach on her blind side she seems very startled and barks then seems to carry on barking. When my friend took her to cafe she didn’t bark at all thanks judith

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Judith, First, I will say working with a training group that has several trainers so that people who are experienced with fear can practice being "strangers" during the session will help the training go a lot faster than doing this on your own, so that might be worth considering. If pup appears to be a bite risk, then would start by desensitizing her to wearing a basket muzzle so you can have her around others to practice. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Practice walking pup past wiling friends and family you have recruited who are strangers to pup, using the concepts of the passing approach method from the article linked below - this method is related to dogs, but the concepts of passing someone over and over again while working on obedience and rewarding good responses of calmness, tolerance, and focus on you, rather than fear responses. Gradually decreasing the distance between her and the people who are helping you as she improves - the important part is to look for not only a lack of fear aggressive response but specifically for times when pup is actually in a calmer mindset and reward that. Passing Approach method: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs As pup improves and can handle being close to people, then people can practice being in closer quarters (with safety measures like the muzzle or leash tethered securely to something if needed to avoid a fear bite), and having them toss treats to pup when she is responding calmly around them. Have the people toss treats while acknowledging her very little when she does well. When pup can handle being around people in general in a variety of situations, then have people give her commands and let her work for the treat rewards to further build trust. Finally, have them go on walks with you, where you can hand off the leash to the other person and pup will follow them also, so that pup is working with and following more people in a calm, respect and trust, based relationship. I can be hard to do all of this at the pace need, with the right body language and speed pup needs to keep everyone safe and improve, so this is often much easier when working with a great training group who has a staff of trainers for pup to get used to lots of people, not just the one trainer. Always take safety measures like back-ties, going at a safe training pace, reading body language, and using a basket muzzle if needed, to keep everyone involved in training and interactions safe. Check out kikopup on youtube for more training to address reactivity and fear. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bear
Aussiedoodle
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bear
Aussiedoodle
6 Months

We live in a townhome/apartment, with a large shared pond and walking path around it in the backyard. Almost every time someone is walking out on the sidewalk, whether it is someone walking another dog or only other people he thinks he needs to bark at them. He is a very friendly puppy, and loves being pet and playing with people. He started this after he spent a weekend at my in-laws over a month ago for a few days. We have tried to distract him, and he has been told no/hey when he sees someone coming and starts to growl/huff at them. It is starting to get quite annoying and loud whenever this occurs. What else could we do to nip this in the butt now while he is still young? Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Zach, , I suggest combining a few things in your case. You need a way to communicate with him so I suggest teaching the Quiet command from the Quiet method in the article I have linked below - don't expect this alone to work but it will be part of the puzzle for what I will suggest next. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Next, once pup understands what Quiet means you will choose an interrupter - neither too harsh nor ineffective. A Pet Convincer is one example of an interrupter. A pet convincer is a small canister of pressurized, unscented air that you can spray a quick puff of at the dog's side to surprise them enough to help them calm back down. (Don't use citronella and avoid spraying in the face!). In situations where you know pup will bark or is already barking (catch them before they bark if you can), command "Quiet". If they obey, reward with a treat and very calm praise. If they bark anyway or continue to bark, say "Ah Ah" firmly but calmly and give a brief correction. Repeat the correction each time they bark until you get a brief pause in the barking. When they pause, praise and reward then. The combination of communication, correction, and rewarding - with the "Ah Ah" and praise to mark their good and bad behavior with the right timing, is very important. Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing him a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever he DOESN'T bark around something that he normally would have, calmly praise and reward him to continue the desensitization process. Don't skip the desensitization at the end - that will ultimately have the greatest effect on pup's new quieter behavior staying with him long term as he matures more, and the tendency to bark increases once territorial behavior increases with mental and sexual maturity. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
hobbes
Labrador Retriever
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
hobbes
Labrador Retriever
4 Months

I am trying to teach my puppy to be friendly to strangers and friendly dogs but he just keeps barking at new people and other dogs who just want to make friends.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Muditha, Recruit friends and family pup doesn't know to walk past them while on leash. Watch pup's body language and have the person stay far enough away that pup stays relaxed. As the person passes pup and pup is reacting well (don't reward while aggressive or acting fearful), then have the person toss several treats gently toward pup's paws and continue walking. Have lots of different people do this in lots of different place - without approaching pup after. You want pup to begin to associate the people with something fun happening and take the pressure of petting away at first before pup is ready for that part. As pup improves, have the people gradually decrease the distance between them and pup. Once pup can handle people walking right by and dropping treats, practice the protocol from the video linked below. The dog in that video has a history of aggression. In your case, pup is just lacking in socialization, so I wouldn't add in the discipline like Jeff does in the video, instead just focus on the rewards or interrupting pup with your voice if needed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E Finally, during all of this, practice desensitizing pup to handling and touch using their food. As often as you can, feed pup their meals one piece at a time. Gently touch pup in an area while feeding a piece of food. Touch their should - feed a piece. Touch their back - feed a piece. Touch an ear - feed a piece. Touch their collar - feed a piece. Touch their paw - feed a piece. Touch their belly - feed a piece. ect... Do it gently and start with areas pup is most comfortable and work up to the other areas as pup improves. When pup enjoys your touches, add in other people pup knows touching, like family members. When pup can handle that add in gentle strangers once pup has completed the other training and is more comfortable with strangers. Don't rush these things but do practice very often and with lots of different people. Watch pup's reaction and go at a pace where pup can stay relaxed - the goal isn't just for pup to act good but actually feel better about people - so pup staying relaxed and happy around people is what you want to reward, which will mean going at the pace or distance pup an handle. When pup is a little more comfortable with people, as soon as possible enroll pup in a puppy class. In order to be entered in a puppy class pup will need to be no older than 6 months, so don't wait long. Expect pup to bark a lot the first couple of classes, many puppies do. Often a puppy will hide and bark and watch the other puppies play for the first couple classes, then start to get curious and want to play themselves after a couple classes and pick one puppy to engage with. From there pup's social skills will usually grow until they are playing with multiple puppies by the end of the six weeks. Pup needs a lot of socialization as you know, and the best way for a puppy to get used to other dogs is with other puppies who have similar ways of interacting and playing, to learn social cues and confidence from. You likely won't find a class that meets every one of the criteria from the article below, but this article will at least give you an idea of what to look for, to get closer. Prioritize classes that have time for moderated off-leash puppy play, and a variety of puppies, instead of just one other puppy. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ You have to wait a while for some classes, so while you work on socialization with people, I would go ahead and find a class you want to do and potentially register for the future class to start. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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