Barks at People but Only at Home

He barks at people coming into his home. He loves people when he’s out.

Border Collie barks at peopleBorder Collie Bud is friendly and relaxed with everyone when out of the house. He likes to say hello.

At home he is a different dog. When someone he doesn’t know comes to the door he barks and gets very agitated.

As he’s not scared of people per se, there has to be a protective, territorial element to this. On and off during the day he’s on look-out duty on the front room window sill, watching for passing people and kids – no doubt believing that his barking is the reason they move on. He’s chasing them off.

Bud may think that when he barks at people coming into the house he can chase them off too.


Whose job is protection duty, anyway?

A guard dog is unlikely to be a good family pet. Guard duty is the job of the adult humans.

If people are not at home, a worried dog should be somewhere well away from the front of the house. When they are at home they need to help Bud to feel safe. The response of a ‘protector’ would not be to just leave him to bark or else tell him to shut up. I myself thank my dogs, call them to me and reward them for coming away. I may need to investigate.

It’s not surprising that a dog that barks at people going past may well be even more concerned when, from the window, he can see a stranger actually comes into the house.

Bud barks madly when the doorbell goes. If it’s someone he doesn’t know, they will shut him in his crate before letting the person in and he will continue barking at them. When let out, it takes him a while to settle. He has air-snapped at the children and nipped adults a couple of times. If the children have friends they have to go upstairs and keep out of the kitchen.

Barking at people coming to the house is a common problem; sometimes the dog is fearful and sometimes angry that they are invading his territory. He may even be protective like his humans are resources belonging to him. With Bud I feel it’s a mix. He isn’t wary or protective unless people are coming into his house.

Where ‘stranger danger’ is concerned, having had guard duty lifted from him he can learn to associate people coming to the house with something he especially likes. He can be taught to do something incompatible with barking at people. The kids can play the ‘doorbell game’. One rings the bell and another feeds the dog, over and over, until the doorbell now predicts food not danger.


A Border Collie is a sensitive dog and things can easily become ‘too much’.

Bud’s nipping occurs when things get too exciting or arousing.

There are many ways in which they can cut down on Bud’s stress levels and this should help him to be more tolerant of day-to-day things like people coming to the house and excited children.

They can help him to self-calm rather than stir him up. Chewing is one such way. Unfortunately, he has been doing so much chewing on bones that he has already, at eighteen months of age, worn his teeth down. This proves just how badly he is in need of something to de-stress himself. We looked at various other calming activities that should help him, but his humans not winding him up would help a lot!

The man can cut down on some of the rough and tumble and chase games that men so love and do brain games and hunting games with Bud instead. Not so much fun for the man but much better for the dog.

A child that becomes too excited may end up bad-tempered or in tears. What about a dog?

In every other respect Bud is a brilliant dog. He has been well and lovingly trained. His barking at people coming into the house, however, isn’t a purely a matter of ‘training’. To get him to behave differently when people come to the house, he needs to feel differently about people coming into the house. This also involves feeling he can trust his humans to protect the home.

Bud’s humans will now do all they can to let him know he’s ‘off duty’ and to keep him from becoming unnecessarily stirred up.


NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bud. I don’t go into detail. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression or fearfulness is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page)

On Lookout Duty

Border Terrier sitting at the windowRalph barks at people and dogs going past his house, spending most of the day sitting on the back of the sofa by the window on lookout duty.

They have deliberately left a gap in their hedge at the back of the garden which overlooks the park, so he can watch dogs and people from there also.

He likes it. Yes….but……

The Border Terrier is now five years old and whilst he’s great with people once they are in the house, particularly the children’s friends, he has been doing this window-watching for much of his life. He goes mental when the postman comes up the path and will wreck the post if he gets to it. Rehearsing this behaviour constantly at home, it is little wonder that he continues to react like this to people and dogs in other places. A while ago he bit a postman.

Meeting the dear and much-loved little dog in his house, it’s hard to believe.

What’s more, the lookout duty, the guarding and the barking will mean his stress levels are probably permanently raised, and as more things happen during a typical day they can get to tipping point.

He gets so aroused when they meet some dogs out on walks that he has bitten the lady several times as she held him back – her leg just happened to be in the way and he redirected onto the nearest thing.

There is nothing at all to be gained by getting that near to another dog when your own dog is reacting quite so desperately. More distance must be put between them if at all possible at the very first sign of any reaction.

Border Terrier looking out of the windowFortunately in some ways, Ralph is obsessed with his tennis ball. If, instead of constantly throwing it for him both at home and on walks, they were to reserve it for when he sees another dog, it could not only give him something to redirect onto but in time dogs will be associated with something good. The downside to current constant ball play is that it adds to a dog’s already high arousal levels. Withhold it and the ball will gain even more value as a training tool.

Like so many dogs who are reactive to other dogs when out, he will be feeling tension from a lead hooked to a collar. As soon as they spot a dog, they tighten the lead resulting in inevitable neck discomfort. It would be so much better if, instead of a shortened lead on a collar and holding their ground, the lead were loose and attached to a harness with which they can make a comfortable diversion around the other dog.

The territorial problem is highlighted at their caravan by the coast. He doesn’t like dogs or people coming too near. The final straw was recently when a man cut between the caravans a bit too close for Ralph and Ralph bit him.

Both at the caravan and at home, management should be in place such as blocking Ralph’s view from the window (he will need other, more healthy kinds of stimulation to fill the vacuum) and blocking the shortcut between the caravans. Serious work can then be done on changing Ralph’s feelings about other dogs and about people approaching his property.

They can start by working at those dogs already at a safe distance in the park out the back, through that hole in their hedge, desensitising and counter-conditioning him using food and ball play.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ralph. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Very Protective Dog

Daschund Max is on guard dutyUnfortunately Max has recently bitten several people including two young children and two postmen.

Max, age two, was found as a stray and they understandably absolutely adore their little dog.

A few months ago they moved house to a busier street, and now Max is doing a lot more barking. He is getting a lot more worked up. He has taken it upon himself to be on guard duty big time. Any noise sends him flying around the house barking. He barks at passers by when out in the garden. Two different postmen were bitten when they entered ‘Max’s’ garden and put out a hand towards him – but outside his own territory one of these same men is like his best friend. At home he is an extremely protective dog. Outside his own house and garden he is a different dog, and very friendly with other dogs too.

Not only is Max becoming increasingly protective of the house, he is very protective of the lady and most of his growling and biting has happened in her presence. When I sat down Max stood facing me on the lady’s lap, barking while she ‘comforted’ him. I asked her to put him straight on the floor. She should be nice to him when he’s quiet and pop him on the floor when he barks.

Max also growls at the gentleman when he’s on the lady’s lap. He growls at them in their own bed at night – pMax is the centre of the lady's universearticularly at the man. I have nothing against dogs sleeping with people if that is what the people really like, but certainly not if the dog is taking posession of the bed and growling if they dare move!

The lady in particular behaves like Max is the centre of her universe.  She touches him and attends to him constantly. The moment she gets home from work, after a rapturous welcome, although he has had the company of the gentleman for most of the day, she is cuddling and playing with him for an hour before doing anything else. They are doing his bidding all evening until he settles.  All this adoration can, in my mind, be quite hard for a dog. As time goes by Max is increasingly taking on the role of protector and decision-maker.  This is a big burden for a dog and one that should be shouldered by his humans.

Gradually Max’s stress levels should reduce as the barking gets less because the people will now deal with it appropriately. They are dedicated to helping him. As a more relaxed dog he should be more tolerant  – though all people should respect his dislike of outstretched hands and his people must take responsibility for this, even using a soft muzzle when children visit so that everyone can relax. The rule must always be Safety First.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Max, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good – particularly where issues involved aggression of any kind. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).


Rottweillers, Guard Duty, Puppy, Children.

Rottie Jake is a mellow character


I went to Rottie Jake and 11-week-old Bert yesterday. Jake is a very mellow character who, despite being given the free run of many unfenced acres day and night and is a formidable guard dog, encouraged to chase visiting cars down the track as they leave,  is also a gentle family pet with their children, something I found really surprising.

And now they have Bert who so far was behaving like the perfect puppy! I was considering calling the meeting off.

Bert was so far behaving like the perfect puppy


Soon I discovered that Bert was an altogether different personality to Jake. He is allowed to give Jake grief and they leave Jake to ‘teach’ him. If all Jake’s quite scary warnings continue to be ignored he may eventually crack and hurt Bert. Despite Jake being extremely self-controlled, Bert is learning that aggression, growling and snapping is acceptable as is his own pushy, rough behaviour with Jake. He has been hit for doing the usual puppy things of grabbing and nipping the girls’ clothes and skin – and apart from anything else, this can’t be the way to teach him to be gentle. He has already started to growl at the children if they touch him when he’s resting.

Don’t get me wrong – the dogs are greatly loved, and little Bert is given plenty of time in training and being taught manners. The children play an active part.

The overall situation could well become difficult when Bert is bigger, with two large male Rottweillers running free outside, especially if the two dogs ‘pack up’. I hope the relationship between the two dogs doesn’t become a problem when Bert, a much more dominant character, grows able to physically assert himself over Jake. For an environment that includes children, the dogs in my opinion have far too much freedom and ‘ownership’ of territory. Jake has never run off, but who knows what a bigger Bert might do if he sees a deer or a hare?

Some of my forebodings were justified as I was leaving and saw just how stressed Jake was and how he very nearly redirected onto the man – one step further and he would have bitten him. This was due to a build up of stressors. Jake was surrounded by people as he lay on his bed – enough to make any dog uneasy. I had been taking a photo of him which also made him uneasy. He was licking his lips and nose – a sure sign of anxiety. Bert was then on top of him giving him grief. The man then knelt down and stroked him on the head which, with Bert all over him, would have been the last thing he wanted. His warnings to Bert (and possibly the man too) went unheeded and nobody helped him out, so it quickly escalated. The wonderful boy did his very best to keep himself calm, but there is a breaking point.

Poor Jake is now living under a lot more pressure and I would worry if the children were alone with the dogs when stressors build up as they did just before I left. Family pets need parenting/leadership, and this means physical boundaries with owners making the decisions as to where the dogs go and when, to take responsibility for protection and guard duty along with control over how their dogs behave towards one another.

All this freedom day and night may be okay for guard dogs, but not good for family pets.

A Good Role Model for the New Puppy

Ollie with new puppy MaiseyTwo days ago I visited Ollie, a black Labrador, who is three years old. From the moment he went to live with his family as a puppy he attached himself to their older Labrador, Zac, in preference to the humans. Zac was a confident dog and Ollie was very reliant upon him. Zac was confident with other dogs out on walks and Ollie felt protected.

Sadly, a couple of months ago Zac died. Only then did it become apparent just how reliant on him Ollie had been. His confidence collapsed. He developed separation problems, crying and howling when left alone.  On walks without Zac’s calming influence he now lunges and yelps when he sees another dog.

Quite naturally the family have been compensating for his distress which has encouraged other unwanted behaviours like barking for attention and over-attachment.

Now they have a Black Labrador Ollie lying on his backnew puppy, Maisie, who is a Labradoodle – cross between a miniature Poodle and a Labrador (guess which the mother had to be!).

Maisie is a calm and stable puppy which is fortunate. Having now got used to her, Ollie feels he owns her. He won’t let her out of his sight without stressing – just like he does his lady owner.  When Maisie has been taken out Ollie seems to almost panic, and when she is brought back he barks at her – scolding her like one might a child who had wandered off in a supermarket. Since Zac died he has taken on on guard duty, with a lot of barking at passing people and noises. The family fear that he will soon start to influence Maisie’s behaviour also.

Poor Ollie, with a completely different temperament to Zac, simply can’t cope with taking over his role. This is a job for his humans. They are going to tighten up with the rules and boundaries which will make him feel more secure. They will cut down his opportunities to be on lookout duty. They will gain control over food. They will relieve him of so much decision-making. They will make walks more enjoyable for Ollie and for themselves by approaching walking and meeting dogs in a different way.

Ollie is a beautiful dog with a sensitive nature who needs to be given confidence. This is not done by spoiling him. He is now getting calm, consistent and confident leadership from his family members and they are seeing a change already.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Jack Russell and New Baby

Jack Russell Becky is easily stressedThis is Becky, a four-year-old Jack Russell. She is a superb little dog – very biddable – perhaps a little spoilt!

Becky is, however, easily stressed. This was evident by her excessive nose-licking. Her family hadn’t realised that this was a sign of anxiety – of Becky trying to calm herself.  She can be thrown into a hyper state very easily. In the past this has unwittingly been encouraged. For instance, she will go over the top when she sees a bird or squirrel out of the window and start running from door to door, barking frantically. They let her out. Once outside she has to redirect this overwhelming stress onto something else so she attacks a toy instead. Rather than dealing with this so that Becky can calm down which would be a lot kinder, they believe that doing what Becky is demanding is kind – letting her out to deal with it herself.

As a dog she is naturally on look-out duty, but she shouldn’t then feel it’s her responsibility to deal with the problem. Imagine you have a child and you tell him – ‘keep an eye open for the lion that has escaped from the zoo’. Then, at the window, he starts yelling, “The lion! The lion! It’s in the garden”. What do you do? Let your child out to deal with it? Or do you tell him to shut up? No – I think not!

However, this is not the reason I was called – but amongst other things contributes to how she’s reacting to a new baby in the family. The have a tiny grandchild now, weighing less than Becky. Becky is fixated. In the same room as the baby Becky is very anxious as one can tell from the nose-licking and paw-lifting. She whines. She had tried to grab the baby’s foot. She’s not being aggressive, but here is something that smells fascinating and that makes noises she simply doesn’t understand which she can’t control. And Becky is accustomed to controlling the people around her!

While I was there we worked at stress relief around the baby and associating Becky being relaxed around her with nice things. We watched out for and respected Becky’s stress signals.

I happened to call later in the day and they had been making such good progress that they pushed ahead too fast, letting their guard down and putting Becky into a situation she was not ready to cope with. This was a warning that these things take time. Becky needs to be well within her comfort zone, on lead around the baby whilst out of actual reach before getting near enough to sniff her, and then only when she’s asleep and quiet  – long before removing the lead. This will take days, maybe weeks, not just a couple of hours. One thing at a time!

The whole process needs to be against a background of general de-stressing and Becky learning that she doesn’t actually need to be in control of the humans in her life. What a relief that will be to her.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Two Boxers with Too Much Freedom

The two Boxers have too much freedomHoney and Millie are both six years old. They were brought home on the same day, but they are not sisters. Millie came from a good breeder and nice home environment, whereas Honey missed out on some vital early input from siblings and mother, and had to be hand reared. What happens during the first twelve weeks or so of a dog’s life makes a huge difference and I don’t believe can ever entirely be reversed. A dog without proper early interaction with siblings and mother will be harder work.

The two dogs used to get on brilliantly. They had puppies at the same time  – even putting all their puppies together in one whelping box and sharing the maternal duties.

Unfortunately things have gone downhill.  Honey, predictably, is a much more stressed dog. A short while ago, due to complications in a pregnancy, Millie had to be spayed, and the imbalance of hormones between them may be adding to the growing tension between the two dogs.

Honey will suddenly just go for Millie. Sometimes she gives ‘that look’ first, sometimes it seems to happen out of the blue. There are a couple of common denominators – the lady is always present and it seems to involve comings and goings, either of people or one dog returning into the presence of the other.  On most occasions the house has been busy and Honey will have had a build up of stress.

To my mind the biggest contributor of all to Honey’s stress levels in particular is the enormous amount of freedom the two dogs have. They have quite a large area on the estate where they freely roam – controlled only by an electric barrier. They are left out all day with an open kennel for shelter. They are there at the gate whenever anyone arrives and it is a busy place. Honey barks, growls and hackles – scared and warning. It’s quite surprising that all her stress is taken out on poor Millie and that she’s not actually gone for a person by now. There is a public dog walking path through the estate that they can see but not reach, which also causes barking and stress.

These two dogs are in charge of the territory, no question about it. Without realising it, the people are often allowing the dogs to be in charge of them also. If it were just the much more stable Millie it may not really matter as she can handle it. Honey can’t.

I am hoping that they can find a way of enclosing the dogs during the day when they themselves are not about and that they feel happy with, and of keeping them well away from the gate area when people come and go so they are let ‘off duty’.  My own dogs are peacefully contained in quite a small area in the house when I am out and I wouldn’t have it any other way for their own sakes – and for the most part when they are anywhere further afield than my garden, I accompany them.

Ruling the roost really isn’t easy on a dog. With some indoor leadership work as well as limiting physical boundaries, Honey’s stress levels should then reduce and I am sure she will not feel the need to take it out on poor Millie. Possibly spaying her in a couple of months’ time when the time is right could help, but I don’t believe this alone is the answer as the dogs already had had a few differences earlier. It needs to be done in conjunction with the behaviour work.

Rearing littermates usually comes with problems, and even though these two weren’t actually from the same litter, because they were adopted together at the same age there will be little difference.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Protective Corgi

Corgi is always on dutyBenny is a four-year-old Corgi. He lives in what one might imagine to be a dog paradise. He is free to go wherever he likes in a very large country house. He has a caring family and the company of two other dogs.

Watching the continual lip-licking, the yawning and the panting, it’s obvious that Benny is a stressed dog rather than one revelling in a wonderful life. He is on guard duty alert much of the time, and ready to rush to protect his owners at the drop of a hat, particularly his female humans. If a man suddenly walks in the front door Benny may appear from nowhere and go for his legs, even if he has met him before. He hates the postman. If someone walks towards his owner, or makes arm movements that Benny could interpret as a threat, again he will spring into action. It’s always legs he goes for, probably due to his own lack if height, and fortunately he’s not yet done serious injury.

I believe Benny will become a much more relaxed dog if he is given some boundaries – physical in particular. At present there are no limits to where he can go. If the lady of the house disappears behind a door, he barks and cries. If someone comes to the front door, he is in effect the first line of defense – there, on guard. It’s best if the owners avoid having Benny in front of them for now when someone approaches. After all, a dog protecting a pack member will always get in between her and the threat.

How can a smallish dog possibly look after so many people and protect such a large environment? Benny is doing his level best. No wonder he is stressed.

It is the leader/head of the family’s job to be the protector and the decision maker. If from the start he is accustomed to boundaries and sometimes being shut behind doors, a dog is far happier in a ‘den’ in a corner than rattling around loose in a large house, especially if he can rest secure in the knowledge that protection duty is not his responsibility. Bennie doesn’t actually spend much time outside in the large grounds because he dare not let his lady owner out of his sight. He follows her everywhere and cries if a door is shut on him. With patient work, he should eventually be able to let her come and go as she likes – and trust her to look after herself.

Putting in place a few rules and boundaries, slowly getting him used to being more independent in so far as demonstrating through leadership that the humans are there to look after him and not vice versa,  should make him a much more chilled dog.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.