Won't stop barking at houseguests

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Won't stop barking at houseguests

This is a discussion on Won't stop barking at houseguests within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi everyone! A little over a year ago we foster failed a 7yo german-shepard retriever mix (we think) named Robin. She was extremely underweight and ...

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Old 03-25-2019, 09:49 AM
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Won't stop barking at houseguests

Hi everyone! A little over a year ago we foster failed a 7yo german-shepard retriever mix (we think) named Robin. She was extremely underweight and sick with heartworm, infections and suspected mammery tumors. Because of her health we didn't really socialize her too much right off the bat. Now we have people over more often and she will not stop barking at them. We've had a house guest stay with us for over a week feeding her, going for walks with us and riding in the car. She still goes nuts whenever our friend walks around the house. Robin doesn't bark if my friend is sitting still. She doesn't bite or even nip but does "lunge" to seem scary.

Outside in public she is fine with people (not friendly but tolerant). Even after hanging out in public with someone for an hour she will start barking immediately after we get back home.

We are trying to get a roommate so she really needs to be trained out of this behavior. The only thing I can think of is getting another foster dog that will show her that strangers are nice. We don't know her background but we suspect that she was a country dog without lots of social contact.

Anyone have any ideas?
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Old 03-26-2019, 11:36 AM
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I would strongly suggest enlisting in person help from a trainer. This is an older adult whose behavior is pretty engrained and clearly does not adjust quickly, if even after a week she was still having these issues. I wonder if this dog might even benefit from some kind of pharmaceutical intervention alongside behavioral modification, given you're looking to bring another person into the house.

This is really a complex issue that is going to take time to work through. While an internet forum if great for offering support and some basic suggestions, most people on this forum are not professional trainers with behavioral knowledge, and even those who are cannot offer the time and information that you really need in this capacity.

We can help you figure out how to find a trainer, however, if you would be interested in it.

This video may be of interest to you. It is geared towards dog professionals, so I don't know how easy it would be to follow, but it does have some important information and isn't too expensive. I would still suggest finding a professional to help you, however.
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Old 03-28-2019, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Fosterfluff1118 View Post
. She still goes nuts whenever our friend walks around the house. Robin doesn't bark if my friend is sitting still. She doesn't bite or even nip but does "lunge" to seem scary.
So, does this pattern seem common that Robin only barks when your guest are moving/walking around inside your house?

If so, it seems the inside movement is triggering a stress response for her for some reason. Is her sight and hearing ok? Sometimes a sight/hearing loss can cause a dog to worry or be anxious/unsure.

I also suggest hiring a qualified positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist if possible, esp since you want to have a roommate and you want to continue to safely having guests come to visit your home. Continued stress (visitors) can wreak havoc on a dogs stress hormones and can even eventually cause the dog to escalate in aggressive behavior.

Reducing stress is key to helping dogs with aggressive behavior.

I will write you another post with some suggestions that you can try with Robin and your guests.

Having a foster dog stay with you to help your dog may work....but as you probably know, can make the behavior worse. Adding another dog to the mix may increase Robin's stress load, plus the foster dog may pick up and copy Robin's negative behaviors.

My Sparky dog picked up on my fearful Gracie's reactivity when I began walking them together --and soon I had two barking dogs out on a walk!! Yikes!! I stopped walking them together to break that pattern asap before it got worse with my previously quiet non reactive Sparky! And continued to work on Gracie's reactivity alone.

But on the other side, my shy fearful cautious Gracie has picked up lots of great confident brave new behaviors since we adopted our Puma pup. Took some time and lots of management and positive reinforcement training with the two of them, but it is so nice to see Puma's positive influence on Gracie!

Oh, by the way, when Robin barks at your visitors what are you guys doing or saying to Robin? Sometimes this can really make a huge difference.
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Old 03-28-2019, 08:57 PM
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Try Counter Conditioning to movement of house guests

Hi again.

Again, I suggest hiring a qualified positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist to assess your situation if at all possible. I know not everyone realistically can go out immediately and hire one like we all suggest. So.....in the meantime, you could try counter conditioning (CC) your dog Robin to the trigger, which seems to be the movement/walking of visitors in your home.

Here's what CC would look like in your situation:

What would I do? I would keep Robin on a leash, or a drop leash, while you have visitors over. If possible, ask your friends or family to help you guys out so you can practice frequently. Only have visitors help out if they are able to listen to your direction, bc you will know when your dog is comfortable or not, and you do not want the helpers to make things worse.

So, have your dog on leash with you. Have a treat pouch on you LOADED with ultra yummy high value food bites!!!

Have your guest/helper sit down. Start with the person sitting across the room, not right next to you, just to be safe. Move a chair if needed to practice this!

Have your guest/helper sit down.
Then ...ask them to get up in a moment or so.
As soon as your guest gets up or starts walking, immediately give your dog a continual stream of yummy food bites.

Cue your dog by saying something like, "Oh, look, Margie is getting up now" Or "Sam is walking around, isn't that cool, Robin?" Or, "Hey Robin, look, Susie is moving, we're good with that right?" Or whatever you are comfortable saying. Say it gently, politely, like you are talking to someone who is worried, but needs firm positive reassurance that everything is A-Ok, no problem here. Yelling or harshly correcting a dog during these sessions will not help a dog to overcome his/her issues.

If you are feeding Robin the treats nonstop, your dog will be eating them (if they are high value and yummy enough!!) and not be barking. Let your helper walk around for a very short moment at first (3-5 seconds is plenty) and then have helper sit back down. Stop the treats when guest sits. Do this over and over again, increasing distance walked over time as your dog is learning the game. Soon Robin should start to look at you for the treats whenever your helper gets up and starts walking! Like. "Hey, Mom, Susie, is walking, where's my treats????" That is when you know the CC is working and you guys are making progress!! Home cooked chicken or meats work wonders for this. No crappy store bought treats, please.

Think "Open bar, closed bar." Visitor walks= amazing treats flow.
Visitor sits = No treats. Zip. Nada.

You will be teaching Robin that guests moving/walking =good stuff!!

Good ole counter conditioning (CC). Change the mindset and the new behavior will follow since the trigger will not represent a stressor.


Important: Do NOT initially require your dog to sit or lay down or anything else while you practice CC. You just want to create a new correlation in your dog's brain that guests moving around your home is a good thing. You can work on asking her to sit or whatever later after she actually has the new association down and is regularly happy about people walking around your home.

Try it ---Counter conditioning (CC) really, really works if you are patient and understanding--- and make it fun and highly rewarding!
! I use it all the time with my dogs and other dogs
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Last edited by AthenaLove; 03-28-2019 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 03-29-2019, 06:28 AM
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It's indeed not an easy matter to change "fixed" habits. Therefore, you might require too much patience to correct the unwanted behaviors. You said you want to foster another dog to affect her behaviors, but you still require to separately train the new pup how to socialize with others, in order to be affected by your older dog. Actually, obedience commands are the basis of almost dog training. Therefore, if you persist on training your pup by yourself (instead of sending to dog schools or hiring a trainer), it's important to teach your pup some commands that will be used in socialization and non-barking training.
The next training guides could help you:
Socialize Your Dog
Stop dog barking
Basic commands training

Before she can completely stay with strangers, it's better to train or walk your pup on a leash.
If your new dog performs well in the outdoor environment, it's still suggested to leash them during the training. Good luck!
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