It is common for dogs to bark out the window at everyone who goes by, and most dogs do not stop until the passersby are well out of sight. No amount of yelling, “Quiet!” ever seems to get dogs to stop barking, and can make some dogs even more enthusiastic in their loud behavior. This behavior is not confined to dogs who react to people and dogs when they meet, but can occur with dogs who tend to be sweet and friendly when they are in social situations. Most people with a dog who behaves this way when anyone goes by just want to know why their dog is carrying on like this and how to get their dog to pipe down.
Your dog may be barking out of the window for one or more of the following reasons. First, she might be barking out of frustration over not being able to greet the people parading in front of her. Dogs, like people, are not at their best when frustrated. Second, she may have learned that when she barks, the people go away, so that barking is an effective way for her to get things to return to normal. Third, she may be alerting the rest of the family to an intruder on or near the property. No matter what the reason she has for barking, yelling is unlikely to help. When you yell, “Quiet!” it sounds to your dog as though you are barking, too. Barking is a contagious behavior, so it’s no wonder that when you join the frenzy, she continues to contribute to it.
There are a couple of ways to handle this problem. One possibility is to teach your dog that when someone walks by your house, she should follow you away from the window. To teach her to follow you, be ready with a toy such as a hollow rubber Kong® stuffed with really great smelly treats. As soon as your dog notices the person walking by, put the stuffed toy right by your dog’s nose, say, “this way” and lure her to a place where she can no longer see out the window. Then, give her the stuffed toy so that she is reinforced for coming away from the window and she has something to keep her occupied for a while. Keep in mind the motto “The treat is mightier than the voice,” and remember to get your dog’s attention via her nose rather than her ears. The treats have to be very high quality—skip the dry bones and kibble and head straight for the steak, chicken, cheese or liver.
Over time and after many repetitions, start saying “this way” even before you put the Kong® by her nose to lure her away. With practice, you should be able to say “this way” and have her come away from the window to get her Kong® without having to lure her. Once your dog makes the connection between passersby and getting a stuffed Kong® from you, she may see someone through the window and come running to find you even without your asking her to go “this way.” If she does this, be sure to give her a stuffed Kong® to let her know that she did the right thing. Reward yourself, too, because you have successfully taught your dog a new and better response to seeing someone go by—coming to you rather than barking. Eventually, you can phase out the Kong® by using it only sometimes, rather than every time she avoids barking out the window.
In the meantime, a quick fix is to use prevention to avoid the problem. Blocking the view your dog has of passersby will go a long way towards making your life at home more peaceful. Whether you choose to close the curtains or block the windows with poster board, some ways to block the view are easy and inexpensive. It may not seem like a very satisfying answer, but it will keep your dog from strengthening her habit of barking at anyone walking by. Even if avoiding the problem is not a permanent solution to the problem, prevention itself is a very powerful training tool that’s worth using consistently.
--Karen B. London