Barking at strangers is not problematic if a burglar enters your home while you're sleeping. Training your dog to quietly welcome all strangers is unrealistic, but training to eliminate excessive barking is necessary. Once you've welcomed a stranger into your home, your dog needs to realize the stranger's presence is not a threat.
Teach “speak” and “quiet” commands. Bring your dog outside on a leash and have a friend who your dog has never met stand out of view. Send your friend a text message to walk into view. Let the dog bark a few times and then put a treat in front of his nose. As he stops to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. When your dog can speak on command, say “quiet” and stick a treat in front of his nose. Praise him for being quiet and give the treat. As your dog learns the “quiet” command, you can say “quiet” to make your dog stop barking at strangers.
Ask a “stranger” again to stand outside the view of your dog. Feed him lots of good treats as the stranger moves closer into view. As the stranger turns around and moves out of sight, stop giving treats. This technique teaches your dog that strangers can mean good things. Continue feeding treats until the stranger is out of sight and repeat the steps.
Stay calm while your dog is around strangers. Avoid yelling at your dog if he barks at strangers. Your dog will think you're barking at the stranger too, which increases your dog's frustration and increases the amount of barking.
Encourage strangers to give your dog treats — if he is not aggressive. Ask a few friends that your dog hasn't met to walk in different intervals around the block in the opposite direction as you and Fido. As you meet each new friend, have them shower your dog with treats. Not only will your dog not bark, but he will look forward to meeting new people.
Teach your dog to sit on his bed in the presence of a stranger. Toss a treat on his bed and say “go to your place.” Once he sits on the bed, give the treat. Open the front door while he's on his bed, but if he gets up, close the door. Increase difficulty by having him stay on his bed while someone knocks at the door and reward him if he stays.
- Enroll your dog in obedience class. This allows your dog to meet new people and dogs while being praised with treats.
- If your dog has a history of biting strangers, never trust he is cured of aggression. Do not leave your dog alone with a stranger and do not have a stranger hand a treat to your dog.
- If your dog is barking out of fear, confine him to a crate while the stranger is in your home. Do not let him out of the crate until the stranger has left. Some dogs with fear aggression will bite someone as they're leaving without warning, according to the ASPCA.
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.