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Leerburg » Articles » Training the Non-Biting Dog to Bark at the Door

Training the Non-Biting Dog to Bark at the Door
Training the Non-Biting Dog
to Bark at the Door
by Ed Frawley

I am often asked by new customers (that do not want to do bite work with their dog) how to teach their dog to be more protective. Basically they want a dog to bark and let strangers know that there is a dog present. When you stop and think about it, that's all that 99.9% of the people that have protection dogs need. I always tell people, if you have an intruder that comes through a barking German Shepherd - you need to SHOOT THEM!!!

To begin with, I think that people who want to do this bark training still need to understand something about the drives of protection training, even if it's only the basics. So read the article I wrote on the subject after you finish with this article.

Some dogs (because of their genes or temperament) are never going to be able to do any type of protection training. They totally lack defensive drive. The only thing that they can be taught to do is to bark on command. We will discuss this method first. Other dogs have the genetic background to do bite work but the owners do not wish to take the dogs through bite development. We will discuss these dogs second.

Dogs Who Have No Defensive Drive:
There are several ways to teach a dog to bark for a treat (or a favorite toy), the simplest is in your kitchen or bark yard. The most important thing in this training is to be consistent with the choice of words you use for "bark" and to praise with the first bark or noise. I use the German word "GEBLOUT." Not many people know what Geblout means and it sounds better than to say, “SPEAK Fido or BARK Fido.”

It's also important to sound enthusiastic when trying to get the dog to "bark". In other words, make a game out of it. Don't think that because the purpose of this training is to eventually have the dog bark at the door that you must sound serious.

The hardest part of this training is to initially get the dog to understand what you want it to do - which is bark on command. It seems that once the light bulb goes off in their head they enjoy the game (some like it a little too much.) Some dogs are not natural barkers. Especially if you have made an effort to control unwanted barking. One of the best ways I have found to get a dog started in the bark exercise is to add frustration with the reward. In other words, tie the dog up to the kitchen table leg or your fence in the back yard (initially always in the same spot.) Tease it with the treat as you back away (go out of sight if necessary as you call to the dog). The most important part of this exercise is to react instantly to any type of a noise from the dog, even a whine. Come running back and praise with "GOOD GEBLOUT - GOOD GEBLOUT." Give the treat and start again. It seems puppies pick up on this quicker than older dogs. The only problem is that once they learn the game it's hard to shut them up.

Another important issue is to only expect ONE BARK. For a long time in training it's only necessary to reward one bark. As the dog gains experience and reliability we will expect two or three barks. But that's way down the road.

Once the dog is consistent in the bark command in the same location on the tie out, the next training step is to teach the dog to bark in other places. So move the tie out to different locations around the house and yard. Also see if the dog will bark on command when you are out playing or walking with him. During these play sessions, stop and give quick direct eye contact and an enthusiastic GEBLOUT command. If he hesitates, show him the treat and repeat the command. The dog only needs to bark one time.

You will be making headway when you can give the command in a play session without the dog knowing that you have the toy or treat ready for a reward.

The game is advanced to the point where the dog is inside the house and the owner steps out the door as he gives the bark command. While outside, he should ring the doorbell or knock on the doors. When the dog barks he comes in and plays. Try and get to the training step where the handler ties the dog, steps outside without giving the bark command and rings the bell or knocks on the door and the dog will bark. Whatever happens, always ring or knock before giving the command.

The next step is for a family member to get involved and step outside to knock or ring the bell. The owner stays inside to give the bark commands. If there is a problem at this training step, back the training up to the initial familiar tie out spot. Have the family member play the game and see if they can get the dog to bark for them. Always remember to lavish the praise on the dog. You will find the more the praise the fonder the game and the quicker the dog learns.

Once the dog will play the game with the family member (or friend) then go back to the door. The goal of this training step is to get the dog to realize that if he barks at the door he is going to be rewarded with a treat or a toy and play.

Throughout all of this training it's important not to over do the exercise during any one training session. Get the dog to bark 3 or 4 times and quit. Let him do something else for 45 minutes and then try it again 3 or 4 times. If you do it too many times and the dog gets tired or bored with the game you have created your own problem.

During training the work should also be done at night. Many dogs with this type of temperament are more nervous about things at night. If the game is played at night (when you will most likely need the dog to bark anyway) it will be used to barking at the door when its dark out, but the dog must learn that this is not just a "day game."

The last training goal is to get the dog to bark without seeing the person leave the house with the toy. Set this up with a family member to take the toy or treat to the store. When they return they should ring the bell, the handler gives the bark command and the dog barks and gets the treat. Again we are only expecting ONE BARK at the beginning of each new training step. As the dog gains experience, each step will expand it to 3 or 4 barks.

The first time you try this, it may be necessary for the family member to crack the door a bit to let the dog see them and the treat. Remember that each training step is something new for the dog. It may take a little creative thinking to make the old light bulb go off in the dog's head.

For Dogs with the Genes to Do Bite Training:
Some dogs have the ability to do protection work but the owners don't care to pursue it or don't have the skills to train it. These dogs can be worked slightly different than what we have talked about above.

Don't assume that just because you have a German Shepherd, Doberman or Rottie that your dog can be worked in the method I am about to describe. The odds are that if they are American bloodline dogs they CAN NOT do this defensive training. The working ability has been bred out of the American dogs. If you care to learn more about the difference between German and American bloodlines, click here to read the article I wrote on the subject.

In this next type of training we will use the dogs natural suspicion levels to enhance his barking. This usually has to take place when the dog's defensive drive starts to develop. That will be dictated by genes and the dog's environment. I have one of my 5 month old puppies with very sound temperament that will react to the next method, I have also seen many dogs that need to be 24 months of age before they are ready.

This exercise is set up at night when the dogs are more alert. Have a friend hide in the bushes in an area that you will be walking your dog. It doesn't hurt to have the friend wear a ski mask or scarf around his face. (You may want to notify your neighbors before trying this.) This location should be in an area where you will not encounter any other people (if possible.) Approach the friend from the down wind side (make sure the wind is blowing from the friends location to you so the dog can smell him before you get to him). Set it up so you are walking the dog for several hundred yards before you actually encounter the spot where the person is hiding. As the handler approaches the spot, at about 50 to 100 yards out all talking stops. The handler watches the dog closely to see the exact moment that the dog smells the person in the bushes or behind the car. If the dog show the slightest indication that it smells something out there the handler sounds suspicious and says "WHAT IS THAT" with a great deal of seriousness in his tone. You can whisper the concern to the dog so that he knows there is something different going on here.

At the first peep out of the dog, the friend jumps out, looks at the dog (without saying a word) for ONE SECOND (no more) and then turns and runs away. As the person is running away the handler gives a great deal of praise to the dog. Initially he does not chase the person and that s the end of the exercise. Only one time a night does he do this in the beginning?

If the dog does not react, the person in hiding can have a can or milk jug with a couple of rocks in it. At about 10 yards, the handler should stop when he hears the can being rattled. Give the warning to the dog (WHAT IS THAT or WATCH HIM) and wait a few seconds. If no growl or bark the suspect steps out, tosses the can on the ground in front of the dog and runs away. I always have a prearranged signal with the suspect to come out when I want them to. Many times the dog will just growl softly. The suspect can't hear it and we want him to react instantly to this growling. Later we will expect the bark.

If the dog is old enough (mature enough) and has the right genetic background, it does not take long for him to realize that by barking at a person in hiding that person is going to jump and run away from him. At no time during this work does the suspect take steps towards the dog and threaten it. That would be counterproductive to the goals of this type of training.

When the dog is doing a good job of smelling the suspect and barking when the handler alerts him the training will change a little. The suspect now hides up wind of the dog (the wind is blowing from the back of the dog team) so the dog cannot smell the hidden person until he is actually by the person.

Now when the handler is about 10 yards from the suspect he will stop and give an alert command. The dog will not smell the person if the set up is correct. The person will step out, stop stare at the dog and when it barks he will run away. This teaches the dog to listen to his handlers warning. It teaches him that just because he cannot smell anything, if the handler says there is something there - then there is something to be careful of.

There are a million variations to this exercise. By using good common sense and watching the reaction of the dog a handler can fine-tune what he wants. You can do things like have a person walking towards you at night on a dark street, give the alert command at 15 yards. The person stops, stares, kind of puffs himself up a little by squaring off at the dog and then runs off at the first growl or bark.

You need to be a little careful with this, though. You would not want to do this one too much or the dog will light up on every single person that comes near you at night. That can turn out to be a real pain if you walk your dog a lot in town for exercise.

You can expand the exercise to having the person hide outside your house in your yard. Give the alert command from inside the house and take the dog outside (on leash - this is always done on leash). The suspect runs off and the dog wins another round. This can go on to having someone come to the door after dark and pound loudly on the door. Give the alert, (have the leash handy) and chase the suspect away. By making noises from outside the house away from the door, (i.e. by bedroom windows etc.) the dog will learn that there are other times that it is appropriate to bark.

Don't start this work at the house though. By going to strange locations, not even where you normally walk, you will raise the dogs alert level and he will be quicker to become suspicious.

If you try this and get the bug for the work you can take your dog to the next level of training, which is bite development. For this work you would want to look at my tape titled The First Steps of Bite Development and then Training Personal Protection Dogs. But if you have no interest in teaching the dog to bite you do not need these tapes. The only thing I would strongly recommend is that if you do this work you need to do an excellent job of obedience training your dog. If you do this alert training and OBEDIENCE TRAINING, you may find yourself in the position where someone is bit and sues you. The lack of obedience training does not fly well in court. Look at the tape I have titled Basic Dog Obedience.

I have a question and would be very grateful if you could answer it. I came across your website while trying to research the subject with no luck.

My mother, who lives alone in a rural area wants to have a dog that will bark a warning when someone comes near the house.

She has tried about three different dogs and none of them will bark. I tell her it's because she never gives them a chance to settle in. She just feeds it and will never let it into the house or spend time with it. She doesn't understand that the dog needs social contact and to feel like the house is its territory before it will bark. She then says the dog is no good and gives it away.

Am I right or am I barking up the wrong tree? Is there another reason why her dogs won't bark?

Yours sincerely
You are exactly right - your mother should probably not have a dog. Not only is she not doing what she should be doing - she won't listen - two strikes and you're out!

Mr. Frawley,

My 5 yr. old neutered boxer was not aroused from sleep on two occasions when someone attempted to force the front door during the night. How do I train him to be more alert at night. I've read your excellent article on Training a Non-biting Dog to Bark at the Door. If awake my dog will bark at the door. Thank you for taking the time to maintain your web site.

Usually dogs that do this have pretty good nerves. In other words, strange things don't bother them too much.

You could set up some training sessions where someone does come into the house and threaten the dog - at the first bark the person runs out of the house. They should rattle the doors or windows at first - to make noise - as time passes they make less and less noise before they come in - the key is that the dog should only bark once for the person to leave.

Hello Ed,

We have 2 German Shepherds, Riley 16 months old and Raine 9 months old.

Riley is a very laid back dog and always was although we bought him from a reputable breeder who informed us that both his parents were K9 dogs but apparently nothing was passed on to him.

Raine's father is from Germany and has been K9 trained as well. Raine was very aggressive when she we first brought her home and extremely busy. She has since taken her lead from Riley and both are too laid back.

When a stranger comes to the door there is no sound from either dog and that concerns me. We wanted the dogs for pets but also protection and it concerns me that is someone would try to break into the house they would let them. They are however protective of their back yard.

I have never been around dogs too much so I'm sure I over mother both of them and I know I tend to treat them more like kids than dogs.

I would appreciate any suggestion you would be willing to share. Both are well behaved and listen, we do have a little bit of leash walking problems with Raine but we are working to correct this.

Thank you, I appreciate your time.

Just because dogs are GSDs does not mean they are protection dogs. The same goes with claims from the breeder about the dogs' genetics. The fact is it sounds like you have two dogs with very good nerves. That’s a good thing. The opposite is weak nerves and that results in fear biters. I tell people that if the genetics are correct then their dogs require training to be developed into protection dogs. I compare this to Michael Jordan’s sons. They have the genetics to play basketball but without training they will never play in the NBA. There in lies your misunderstanding of your situation. In addition neither of your dogs are mature yet. These dogs don’t mature until they are 18 to 30 months old. Before you send dogs off for training I strongly recommend that you read the article I wrote on my philosophy of dog training. You will see why you will be doing your dog a favor by not doing that. If you care to do the work you can learn a lot from my training DVDs.

Hi, my name is Jeff and I have purchased your DVDs on Pack Structure, Basic Obedience and Electric Collar Training. I have gone through all the videos except Electric Collar Training with success so far. I will be working on that next month. I am wondering if any of your other DVDs would help with what I'm looking for in my dog. I have a 13 month old female GS and I would like her to show aggression on command and off on command and the alert command. I do not want a dog with a bite command. Do you have any videos out there that would help me with that?
Here’s an article that may help you, Training the Non-Biting Dog to Bark at the Door.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

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