I want my dog ​​to bark…sometimes.

“Stranger danger” is a common reason people seek help. The dog barks at people passing the house, approaching it and entering the house and does not settle down easily, if at all. This is a very troubling behavioral obstacle for its owners for obvious reasons. It’s understandable that humans want to be able to entertain friends and family without a huge display of responsiveness, aggressive lunges, or a potential bite. They feel embarrassed, frustrated, and sometimes afraid of what might happen if they let things go unchecked. But I tend to find that owners will let this behavior continue much longer than various other behavioral barriers. Let’s see why.

I stand behind these owners in helping their dog learn to feel comfortable and safe so that they can have the people they love over for a visit without too much stress, but it is not uncommon for us reached a point of division on our objectives. . I hear so many homeowners say, “We want him to bark because we want him to protect our home…we just don’t want him to bark when it’s people we agree with.” » I find that many owners let this behavior continue for a while before seeking help and this is because they are struggling with the idea of ​​extinguishing a behavior that they do not consider to be such . all bad. So what they want from a trainer is to help them have a dog who calmly greets guests and keeps the boogie man away. Essentially, teach the dog to sense whether someone is a good person or a bad person. I know dogs can be trained to detect scents, but can we train them to detect morality? “Protection” dogs or police dogs are not dogs trained to instinctively determine someone’s intentions. They are trained to attack at the right time. The human must still make his judgment and the dog, in order to be employed in this work, must also stop biting when invited to do so.

In fact, I find that most people who believe their dog is trying to protect them don’t realize that the dog is just trying to protect itself and that they had nothing to do with it. This idea of ​​a dog putting itself in a protective role makes humans feel so good that it’s easy for them not to look beyond this particularly altruistic motivation as an explanation. It’s also easier for people to feel empathy toward their dog when they believe these actions are a misguided display of love toward them.

It is, however, understandable why we think this way. Heartwarming videos and hero dog stories constantly inundate us and unconsciously reinforce our expectations of “loyalty.”

I myself have seen quite a few stories of dogs who saved the day by fending off an intruder who was looking to harm their humans or their property. Personally, I think that many of these dogs react the way they do because the social situation in which the stranger entered the house, for example, was not typical and the dog knew it. The owners weren’t there at the door to let them in or everyone was asleep, for example. Maybe the dog was startled and the bad guy smelled of adrenaline and stress.

These stories tempt people to let a dog continue to engage in unhealthy behavior. And if one day they need to save? I understand. I understand that many people want a dog that can detect someone with bad intentions or let them know there is trouble ahead. The problem is that unless you are training a dog to protect itself, allowing a dog to sit in a state of fear-based reactivity where it can react proactively and defensively does not mean the dog knows who is a threat and who is not, and you are gambling with your dog’s emotional health and future. I mean, a lot of delivery drivers would probably say that a lot of dogs aren’t necessarily good judges of character.

As I often say, you either have a dog who will alert you if trouble is in trouble or defend you in a strange and dangerous situation, or you don’t. One dog is not a better dog than another.

My first dog as an adult was a soft, fluffy vizsla and he was as sweet as can be. I could take him everywhere, he was great with people and kids, and I don’t think I ever saw him raise his lip. He responded to frightening stimuli with avoidance and appeasement and I had no illusions that this dog would have a protective instinct, which was fine with me. I have always been the type of person who would rather my dog ​​run away from danger than enter it. I would be devastated if anything happened to him and someone who might want to hurt me might also hurt him.

But this marshmallow of a dog completely bared his teeth when I found myself in the presence of someone looking to harm me, and that stopped the threat in its tracks. Is the moral that I changed my mind and got a dog to protect me? No. I’m grateful for what he did, but I still don’t want my dogs to put themselves in danger for me, nor is it necessary. I know they love me and they won’t love me any less if they run for the hills when a threat arises.

The moral of my story is this: He was the kind of dog that someone might joke about bringing a burglar a stuffed animal as an offering and waiting to hear what a good guy he is. He was able to love people as a collective unconditionally his entire life, and he always knew when something was wrong anyway. Like I said, your dog will either do this or he won’t.

Of course, the chances of a dog who is afraid of strangers biting an intruder may be significantly higher than those of a dog who generally likes people coming into his house, but the chances are lower. The highest this same dog will first bite someone you have welcomed into your home.

Let me be clear: your “protective” or “territorial” dog is at higher risk of biting someone he’s not supposed to bite. A much higher risk. Playing with this and playing with the odds for the potentially small benefit that if someone breaks in you will have a dog that will stop them, is a losing battle for many and for their own sake. research guests.

If your dog can’t tell the difference between friend and foe, the responsible thing to do is teach him that people are safe. Meeting your dog’s needs by providing him with a sense of security aims to improve his quality of life, as well as yours.


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