We want our dogs to defend our home, alert us to strange noises, deter burglars, and yet be friendly to all our visitors

We want our dogs to defend our home, alert us to strange noises, deter burglars, and yet be friendly to all our visitors. Not surprisingly, they sometimes make errors of judgement and do not always differentiate.

Territorial behavior develops as puppies mature. Therefore, if your puppy does not bark when the doorbell rings, do not think you have to teach him. You could be encouraging undesirable behavior that is difficult to control as he grows up. Most dogs show some degree of territorial behavior. Barking when someone comes to the door is usually seen as acceptable, provided the dog stops when we want. If we then take control of the situation and open the door, the dog should allow us to make the decisions. If we are happy with this person, so should he be.

Possible causes:
• This is natural and it is often desirable, unless it is completely out of control.
• Dogs who practise the behavior and bark at passers-by may feel that they are rewarded. As with all behavior that is rewarded, the behavior gets stronger.
• Dogs may have been encouraged by their owners. Owners saying ‘who’s that’ in an excitable tone to their puppy when the doorbell rings may find that their dog develops a higher territorial response.

Prevention:
• Socialise your dog. If he loves people, he has far less reason to want them to stay away.
• Ensure that the arrival of people means rewards for your dog, such as fuss, attention, treats and games.
• When your puppy is young, carry him to meet postmen, workmen and so forth as they come to your door. Ensure he has good experiences.
• Do not allow your dog to bark at passers-by. Remove him from his vantage point if necessary.

What to do if problems have arisen:
• For safety’s sake, keep him away from certain visitors. The man who has come to read your meter probably has no desire to help you train your dog.
• Seek expert help.

This problem is especially seen in:
• Dogs of guarding breeds.
• Nervous dogs, who may want to avoid close proximity to strangers.
• Rescue dogs, who may have practised this behavior in kennels.
• Active dogs with insufficient stimulation, who find the arrival of visitors highly arousing.

Dogs should be encouraged to enjoy the company of other people, so that they do not see them as threatening or unwelcome.

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