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My Pet World: When your dog alerts, let him know you 'got this'

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

You made suggestions about leash training to Dee in Henderson, Nevada, but not regarding the in-house issue. She indicated that her dog barks and gets aggressive when people or dogs walk by the house. I have the same problem with my dogs. A bark or three is wonderful but 20 — and dashing from window to window with our second dog also jumping in — is too much. Any suggestions on limiting the barks to a few? — John, Long Island, New York

Dear John,

A dog’s main job is to alert their humans to danger. You know the mail delivery person is safe, but your dog sees it as an intruder who has come to hurt the family. When a dog is alerting, we often don’t acknowledge the perceived danger, opting to yell at our dogs to stop barking instead. Your dog is like, “I can’t stop barking. You haven’t seen the threat yet.”

So, while this may sound strange, thank your dog for alerting you to the “danger” (i.e. a little girl riding past on her bike), check out the threat by going to the window, and then tell your dog something like, “I’m OK. I’m safe.” Then walk away encouraging your dog to come with you. If he does, walk him over to the treats, ask him to sit, and then give him a treat or some other toy distraction that will move him away from the window. Eventually, over time, you should be able to say the “I’m OK” phrase and then call your dog from across the room. When he comes to you, ask him to sit, then give him a treat or offer him a distraction. Use interrupters for those dogs that can’t stop barking, like shaking a can of coins or using a Pet Corrector that makes “Shh” sound. You have to get a dog’s attention before he will come when called.

You can further condition him by sitting outside and allowing him to get used to the sights and sounds of his neighborhood. Acknowledge his alerts and say you’re OK.


You also can reduce some alerts by turning on a sound machine to block outside noise or close your blinds or install bottom up blinds that allows you to keep the lower part of the window covered.

You can’t stop your dog from barking, but you can distract him and/or condition him to relax when he understands you “got this.”

Dear Cathy,

Isn’t treating the dog who barks when other dogs walk by the house just reinforcing bad behavior? — Pamela, Las Vegas Nevada


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