Some dogs make great doorbells but a dog barking at visitors isn’t exactly always welcomed is it? Whether your dog is barking because they’re feeling territorial or because they’re social butterflies that go giddy with excitement, you probably want to learn how to stop your dog from barking at visitors; never fear we’ve got you!

In this article, we’ll be exploring why dogs bark at visitors, the steps you can take to stop your dog from barking at visitors, and our top tips to prevent your dog from barking at visitors.

Barking at visitors is a typical training issue that can be easily fixed. Learn how to prevent barking in the Zigzag puppy training app. There’s a team of professional dog trainers waiting to talk to you in our in-app chat, so you can ask them all your dog-related questions.

puppy outdoors
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Why do dogs bark at visitors?

Dogs bark at visitors for many different reasons, they might feel afraid or anxious about someone new in their territory. They might just be excited at the prospect of a new person to get some fuss from. Whatever their reason for barking it usually gets a reaction from us.

How to stop dog barking at visitors

To stop your dog from barking at visitors, first find out what the underlying cause is behind the barking, then create a training plan so that your dog starts to feel differently about guests, and can learn what a more appropriate behaviour is for greeting visitors.

1. Find out why your dog is barking at visitors

Look at your dog’s body language to find out if your dog is being territorial and displaying ‘keep away or else’ behaviour, is fearful or scared so wants the scary thing to go away, or if they get overstimulated when guests come over and don’t know what to do, except bark!

2. Teach your dog to go to a mat

One of the easiest ways we can get a dog to stop barking at visitors is to teach them to go to their bed or mat when a visitor comes over. The best way to do this is to teach them that the doorbell or door knocking becomes a cue for them to go to their mat. 
Use positive reinforcement training with treats and rewards to teach them this, and use a cue like ‘ok’ or ‘free’ to release them off their bed.

3. Be prepared to put the work in with training

It takes time to train a dog to stay calmly on their bed when visitors arrive. You’ll be setting up pretend scenarios while training, so you might have a doorbell recording that you can play on your phone, that cues your dog to go to their mat, but they probably won’t stay on there for very long to begin with, so remember to be patient.

4. Give your dog something else to do

Using food toys like a stuffed Kong, a nice chew, or a puzzle toy can help your dog stay on their bed for longer, and help them to stay calm when visitors arrive.

5. Reward your dog when they’re calm and quiet

Dogs do what they find rewarding, and if that is self-rewarding because they enjoy barking, or because barking gets them attention or affection, we need to reward other more appropriate behaviours like not barking!

Read our article on how to calm a puppy down for more help with this.

6. Ask your dog for other behaviours other than barking

If your dog barks because they want to interact with your guests, then ask them for some basic obedience cues to teach them there are other things to do that will get you that longed-for attention. 

How about your dog sits as a way of saying ‘please can you stroke me’, that’d be much better for our ears than them barking their heads off, right?!

border collie smiling
Photo by Baptist Standaert on Unsplash

Top tips to make sure your dog doesn’t bark at visitors

There are plenty of other things you can do to make sure your dog doesn’t bark at visitors. Here are our top tips

  • Manage the environment – put your dog in a puppy-proofed area, crate, playpen or another room with something nice to do to keep them busy like eating a tasty chew, emptying a stuffed Kong, or enjoying a brain game.
  • Put a pot of treats by the front door and ask your visitors to grab a handful of treats on their way in and then toss them toward your dog before they can bark.
  • Ask your guests not to make direct eye contact with your dog but throw some treats as they sit down instead.
  • Ensure your dog has had a good walk so that they’re not full of beans when guests arrive.
  • Teach your dog the quiet cue and to calm down.
  • Avoid reinforcing the barking by shouting, or telling your dog to shush. Otherwise, they might think you’re joining in!

If you have a puppy, socialise them with people from a young age, so that they’re not scared of strangers. This is essential to prevent them from barking at visitors.

We hope that’s given you some ideas on how to stop your dog from barking at visitors. Managing the environment, finding out why your dog is barking and then teaching them what you want them to do instead of barking, with positive reinforcement will be the way to go.

While certain breeds of dogs like Dachshunds and German Shepherds enjoy barking, they can be taught to be quiet on cue and learn that they don’t have to go straight to barking by teaching them to go to the mat, when they hear the doorbell. 

If your dog is extremely fearful of visitors or is acting aggressively, we recommend you seek the help of a professional dog behaviourist or trainer, that will look at your dog’s emotions and help you come up with a plan to make them less worried. 

Barking is a natural behaviour for a dog, some will do it to protect their territory because they’re fearful or excited and over-aroused. Whatever the underlying cause is to the barking, it is possible to change the behaviour with time, patience and reward-based training

Labrador puppy smiling in the garden
Photo by Garrett Karoski on Unsplash

If you’d like to learn more about barking, read our article on how to stop your puppy barking, or what to do if your puppy barks at everything. Or, on a quieter note, you could try teaching your dog some tricks

Download the Zigzag puppy training app for a full training programme that takes your puppy from zero to hero! Use the in-app chat to talk to our experts. They’re professional dog trainers and will love to talk to you about your dog.