dog barks at postman

DOG BEHAVIOUR HACKS

HOW DO I STOP MY DOG BARKING AT THE DELVIERY PEOPLE?

THE PROBLEM

Covid-19’s stay at home message and the closing of non-essential retail means that more people are getting shopping delivered to their homes than ever before. This means more delivery people coming to the door, knocking or ringing a bell, and sending dogs into a fury of barking. Barking at the Postie has always been a common problem, but with more people at home all day to hear the barking it may now be more of a problem than ever.

WHY DOES MY DOG BARK AT THE DELIVERY PERSON?

Dogs may bark when the door is knocked or the doorbell rung because they excited at the thought of a visitor, or, more often, because they are worried about a stranger entering their home. Despite barking at the door being a big ‘pet peeve’ for many owners, it is a behaviour that humans admired in early dogs. One of the first jobs which dogs had was barking to alert people to threats.

So, the dog barks to alert people to the potential intruder. If people are at home, they often shout at the dog. But the dogs may see this as joining in, rather than a reprimand. If there is nobody at home the dog barks and the delivery person leaves. In both cases the dog gets a reward! The people join in the barking reinforcing the dog’s opinion that barking is the right thing to do, and then the ‘threat’ goes away! The dog feels better and that behaviour becomes more likely next time.

HOW DO I STOP MY DOG BARKING AT DELIVERIES?

THE HARD WAY

It is possible to teach the dog an alternative behaviour when the door knocks. First, teach your dog to ‘go to bed’. Next have someone knock the door or ring the bell (or record the noise on your phone) before asking the dog to ‘go to bed’. Reward when he does. Over time the door knock/bell will replace you saying ‘go to bed’ and will cue the dog trotting off to his bed. This works really well for dogs that get over the top with visitors.

It is also possible to keep some of the barking by putting that on cue. Say ‘speak’ then trigger your dog to bark, join in and be very excited! Then stop and wait for your dog to stop too. As he does, say ‘quiet’ and give a food reward. If you train this well it is possible to start and stop your dog barking which is great for security, if you feel unsafe just ask your dog to speak!

The trouble with these approached is that if you aren’t there for a door knock the dog may not choose the ‘bed’ behaviour or controlled barking, and won’t be rewarded for it. It may be hard to avoid deliveries during the time you are retraining your dog.

THE EASY WAY

Move to the Falkland Islands as they do not have a postal delivery service. If that isn’t practical, remove the delivery people from your doorstep. Instead of having a letterbox on your front door, place a mailbox on your property, but as far from your door as possible. For parcels, you can buy lockboxes which also reduce the risk of theft.

For specific problem behaviours please contact us by email to arrange an appointment. Be aware that until June 2021 we are not able to undertake home visits. health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk