Lots of dogs stare out the window and bark when people, dogs, cats, birds or cars pass by. This can be a problem for owners in the house, neighbours and may be upsetting for the dog.
The problem: Your dog alert barks, or worse, fear barks at most passers-by. Every time he barks, the thing goes away. In his mind, your dog has successfully made the “bad man” go away. This will increase the chances of him barking the next time something passes by the window!
Easy solution: Lower the visual stimulus. If your dog can’t see what’s out there, he is less likely to bark. You can move the sofa, close the drapes or the blinds, but your home may not be set up for this, and/or you don’t want to darken the room 24/7.
Spray bottle method: Instead, take a spray bottle of water and lightly mist your window frame. Cut bubble wrap (the smaller the bubbles usually the better) to fit over the pane. Place the flat side against the damp glass. It should stick and stay until you peel it off, without any adhesive.
If this doesn’t lower your dog’s visual enough, you may want to invest in window privacy film, which is available in a variety of colours and patterns from hardware and homeware shops, Amazon and seasonally, Lidl stores. You might also need to reduce the noises from outside: leaving the radio on, or an audiobook playing can help mask sounds.
Long term solutions: When you are ready to train, remove the bubble wrap, and counter-condition your dog to each passer-by, preferably before the barking starts. As soon as your dog notices the “bad man” pop treats into his mouth, one after the other until the person is out of sight. Immediately stop the treats.
Teach a ‘quiet’ cue: Thank your dog for alerting you, then walk over to his bed (away from the window) say ‘all done’ and drop several treats onto the bed. Although this may not reduce barking overall, it can give you an ‘off’ switch, without reducing alert barking. Teach this separately, when your dog is not barking, so you can use it when he is.
Yelling at your dog, startling him with rattle cans, squirting him with the water bottle or other punishment methods may not be effective as your dog may not view it as punishment, or the need to bark and the reinforcement he gets from barking may be greater than the punishment issued. Additionally, if it is fear based barking, adding more stress through punishment is likely to increase barking at times when punishment is not applied, and generally make your dog feel worse about what he is barking at.
If you need help with any of the training methods in this article, contact Marta at Barking Up the Right Tree to schedule a session.