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Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs

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Disclaimer: The material provided by Bailey on this web site is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information presented is provided with the understanding that Bailey is not engaged in rendering medical or professional behavioral services. Such information should not be used as a substitute for behavioral advice provided by a qualified canine behavior therapist.

Please remember that Bailey's advice, comments, or opinions are solely Bailey's, and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff here at Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs.

Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs is not responsible for actions taken based on the advice provided herein.

Barking Interpretation

Hello Bailey,

My Shepherd seems to be very protective. When friends and distant family came to the house to visit over the Fourth of July she would bark in a threatening manner very similar to how she does with the other dogs. She didn't show her teeth and wagged her tail.

When people come to the front door and she sounds like she wants to kill them. But she at no times shows any violence to myself, my wife or my 2 kids.

We try to introduce the family to her she sniffs and licks, but three minutes later she's barking at them in a threatening manner. Is there something wrong with her?


Bailey's Reply:

Dear Jim, 

There are many types of barking:

  • Alert barking ("Hey, there's someone here!")
  • Warning barking ("Don't come any closer..." *this is usually just one or two low barks)
  • Fear barking ("I this situation is making me nervous/scared!")
  • Play barking ("Wow, this is sooo much fun!")
  • Boredom barking ("Hmmm...nothing to do.  I'm bored.  I'm bored.  I'm bored.)
  • Frustration barking ("I really wish I could get that squirrel!")
  • Isolation barking ("Hellooo... is there anyone there?")

Reading your dog's body language is also very important as to interpreting what the "bark!" means. From what you've described, it seems like she's more of a shy, uncertain girl rather than an aggressive one- her barking at the door could be a combination of alert and fear barking.  (By the way, just because a dog wags its tail doesn't always mean that she's friendly or happy.  Tail-wagging in a barking dog - as you described - can also be a cue that the dog is stressed in some way.)

“Get your dog enrolled in obedience classes, if she's not already”

Get your dog enrolled in obedience classes, if she's not already.  It's a fact that teaching your dog obedience can go a long way in boosting her confidence (and yours, too!).  The stronger of a leader to are to her, the less she will have to be uncertain of things in her world.  This means less fearful barking.

Have everyone she meets offer her a treat.  I'm friends with ANYONE who gives me a treat!  If she won't come close enough to them to take it, have them toss it to her.  Do this with the family as well.   Watch for situations where you can anticipate that she will begin to bark and offer her treats before she has a chance to get worked up.

If she gets too worked up right at the front door to take treats, move her away from the door to the point where she is calm.  Calmly praise her and give her treats simply for quietly looking at the door from a distance and being calm!  Decrease the distance over time as she becomes more accustomed to "someone at the door = treats!".

And if all of this is simply too overwhelming, don't be afraid of contacting a qualified trainer to help get you through the process.  With patience and consistency, you can help to lessen some of your dog's barking episodes.  Keep me posted!



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