That Dog in the Window - How to Stop Your Dog from Barking at Neighbors
It’s the end of the day and you just got home from work. You’re ready to relax after the long day, and instead your task has become calming your dog down. They notice all of the people coming home from work too.
There’s more cars are going down the street, other people walking their dogs by your house, or maybe they just simply get more hyper-vigilant at dusk.
Dogs tend to bark at the window because it is reinforcing. They bark to tell the person or dog to go away. They’re likely barking at people who are likely going past the house anyway. When the dog sees that the person leaves after they bark, they realize that it worked!
“I bark, the intruder leaves! Perfect!” Since the behavior is being reinforced by people unintentionally doing what the dog wants, it can be difficult to change.
Our primitive dogs tend to have an element of self-preservation of guarding themselves from threats which may be their breed’s purpose—protecting the family or the flock. It can be a real challenge to keep your dog from barking at the neighbors if they believe it’s their duty to provide the neighborhood watch.
Here are 5 tips to keep your dog from barking at the neighbors:
It can be very frustrating to live with a dog who is always barking or lunging at the window. Since it is so frustrating, many opt to punish their dogs for exhibiting these behaviors by scolding or dragging them away. Punishment increases anxiety and stress which can lead to increased barking and agitation.
Reward for calm behavior
Instead of scolding your dog for barking, praise and reward them for calm behavior. Telling a dog what we would like them to do increases the likelihood that they will do that behavior instead. If you reward them for laying calmly and quietly with you on the couch or room away from the window it can help to encourage them to continue these better behaviors.
Prevent them from accessing the front window
The simplest solution is management.
If there is a specific window that your dog sits in front of and barks, then block their access to this area. Closing a door or gating off the room during times of activity in your neighborhood will prevent your dog from practicing these behaviors.
If you are unable to prevent access to this area, then find a way to block the window itself. Close the blinds or put cardboard on the window while you work on training. If you don’t want a piece of cardboard over the window, you can buy window clings that allow light in but blur the outside so your dog is unable to see people or dogs walking by.
Puzzle toys are a type of toy that dispenses food or treats when your dog interacts with them. These toys are a great way to exercise your dog mentally and physically.
You can use a Kong toy filled with your choice of food or treats. There are a million different ways to stuff a Kong, but some of my favorites are mixing their food with plain yogurt or canned pumpkin or sweet potato. For canned pumpkin, you’ll want to choose the plain pumpkin without the spices or sweeteners.
The important part is to have it frozen and ready to give to your dog. Frozen Kongs last longer so your dog stays engaged with the toy for a while.
The Kibble Nibble or Buster Cube are two of my favorite puzzle toys. Your dog must push the toy around to release the food inside. These toys give your dog a job instead of becoming hyper-vigilant about people, dogs, or noises outside.
Give your dog a puzzle toy as soon as you come home before they start showing signs of stress about what’s going on outside.
We give the puzzle toy before they bark, if possible, so that the dog doesn’t create the pattern of “I bark, then I get this cool toy.” When they are busy working on a puzzle, they are less likely to stare out the window and bark!
Imagine sitting at home in complete silence with hearing is much more acute! It can be spooky! A white noise machine, YouTube video of white noise, or even a radio on for your dog is an effective way to drown out random noises outside your home. These are especially useful for very active neighborhoods or apartments. They provide enough noise to prevent your dog from becoming obsessed with excess noises.