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Dogs bark, we get it. But some bark waaaaay too much for civilized society. It’s embarrassing and can be scary for your guests. Even if you’ve got a little dog, constant barking is annoying.
Plus, many dogs who bark and go crazy are actually expressing their distress about guests.
Generally, barking is a sign of arousal (either fear or aggression or excitement), and that level of arousal is a bit much for day-to-day.
In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, this is the exact problem we’re tackling. Our reader writes,
“I have a pack of six dogs, 5 small and 1 large. I live with my sister and her husband. Me and the dogs live in the living room. Every time my sister or her husband enters the living room, my dogs go crazy barking, everytime everyday.”
– Bonkers Barkers
If you’re struggling with a barky dog, you might want to check out these other articles from Journey Dog Training:
- Help! My Dog Barks at EVERYTHING!
- How Do I Stop My Dog From Barking at the Door?
- Why Does My Dog Bark at Me?
- Stranger Danger – Why Your Dog Doesn’t Like Strangers
Let’s just start by saying, that sounds super annoying! I have a lot of sympathy for people who struggle with barky dogs.
Why Do Dogs Bark and Go Crazy at People?
The thing is, we bred dogs to bark at people. Not long ago, your dog’s ancestors were supposed to bark at people.
Dogs don’t always differentiate between the pizza guy, your grandma, your college buddy, and an armed intruder. Many dogs play it safe and bark at everyone.
Our dogs used to be our home security systems. Of course, now many of us would like our dogs to cut it out! But their genetics are telling them otherwise.
How Do I Teach My Dog Not to Bark at Guests?
First Things First: Be Patient
Punishing your dog for barking seems SO logical, I know! You want to tell them to cut it out. Yelling often gets them to quiet down for a moment.
But in the long run, this can actually make things worse. Your dog is learning that being near strangers makes her owner act scary!
This can make the barking worse later on or might lead your dog to try to keep guests away with more serious options – like growling or even biting.
Some dogs will just hide from guests, but that’s not great either.
The Quick and Dirty Option: Meet Outdoors
As a preliminary measure, it often works to allow your dog to greet guests outdoors first. This helps remove the pressure of having someone enter the dog’s space.
Do this by:
- Have your guest park a few houses down.
- Then walk your leashed dog to greet them.
- Just casually start walking in the same direction. If your dog is still barky, have your guest walk in the street (if that’s safe). We call this the “parallel walk” method of introductions.
- Gradually close distance between your guest and your dog while continuing to move forward.
- Then complete the walk around the block and enter the house.
For most dogs, this essentially eliminates the problem of barking at guests.
For More Serious Cases: Try Treat and Retreat
However, some dogs still bark and go crazy at strangers in the street or continue to bark at guests if they move around in the apartment.
We’ve got a whole video on Treat and Retreat here, check that out!
Undersocialized dogs and herding breeds are notorious for barking at strangers who move around inside the house.
If your pup is barky with people even after trying to greet them outdoors, here’s what to do.
- Consider just putting your dog away when guests are over for now. If your dog is easily spooked by guests (which causes the barking), she might be happier in her crate or in another room with a tasty stuffed Kong.
- Give your guests tasty treats and instruct them to ignore your dog – even if she comes up to sniff them. This will be hard for your guests, but it’s important that they don’t make eye contact or reach for your pup! She needs extra space for now.
- Have your guests casually toss treats away from them. Your pup will scramble off to eat the morsels, then check back in with your guest for food. Repeat.
- Ask your guest to toss treats before and after making any movements that might upset your dog.
This teaches your dog two important lessons: that guests make food happen, and that it’s actually better to move away from them than it is to bark at them!
Over time, your dog might choose to come investigate your guests. I’d suggest having your guests continue to ignore your dog for MUCH longer than feels necessary.
Getting Closer: Helping Barky Dogs Make Friends
Once your dog is more relaxed with guests, you can start introducing them to each other in a more significant way: by having the guest pet your dog.
Only do this if your guest can easily move around the house without the dog barking, and if the dog approaches your guest on their own.
But eventually, they can say hi and let your dog love on them. Pat-Pet-Pause is a must at this phase.
Kayla grew up in northern Wisconsin and studied ecology and animal behavior at Colorado College. She founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She’s an avid adventurer and has driven much of the Pan-American Highway with her border collie Barley. She now travels the US in a 2006 Sprinter with her two border collies, Barley and Niffler. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams.