Helping Dogs Who Are Barking at Male Guests

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Why Are Men so Intimidating?

Owners often assume that rescued dogs are scared of men because they were possibly were abused by men, however, this cliche doesn't always hold true. There are dogs with a perfect history of being raised in loving families that are still scared of men. So what gives?

There can be several explanations. One plausible explanation is that the dog may not have been socialized with different types of men much, especially during puppyhood—the critical time between four and 16 weeks. Another explanation may stem from the fact that men, from some dogs' point of view, may appear to be more intimidating.

Men are often taller respect to women, they may have much deeper voices and have facial hair, and what many of may of us may not realize is, that men also often move in a more assertive fashion. Applied animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell also mentioned studies were done where men were found to be seen as ''coming closer at higher rates or stronger intensity'' respect to women. Also, consider that coming in and out of doors is one of the biggest triggers for many reactive dogs and this is one of the areas in the home that needs to be managed the most.

I will offer a behavior modification program that may help your dog cope better with men entering your home. In order to accomplish this, you will need some men to come over and help volunteer. You will also have to equip yourself with a nice treat pouch you can clip to your belt (to be practical), a leash, and the tastiest treats out there. These are not your regular kibble or those stale dog biscuits that were forgotten a month ago in a jar. You want to invest in freeze-dried liver, slivers of hot dog, small chunks of steak or grilled chicken. You need them in very bite-size pieces (and if you give a lot of them or do this often, you will need to adjust your dog's feeding ratio). Now you are all set to get started!

A Successful Behavior Modification Program

First of all, make sure please, please, please that your dog cannot get free. This both for safety and from a behavior standpoint. If your dog has a history of barking/growling/lunging/nipping consider these behaviors can be quite reinforcing, in other words, once a dog realizes that by barking/lunging/nipping a guest, the guest leaves or moves away, and the dog feels like repeating the action because he was successful in making the guest go away. Always work under threshold.

Step 1: Conditioning to the Smacking Noise

Do this exercise a few days ahead before engaging the male volunteers. Basically, make a smacking noise with your mouth and immediately after, drop a treat or give it with your hand. You want to repeat, repeat, repeat until he starts to associate the noise with treats. You know this has happened when upon making the noise, your dog looks at you for the treat. At this point, congratulations! You have classically conditioned your dog!

Step 2: Conditioning to the Doorbell

Have somebody practice on ringing the doorbell. You will stay seated in your chair with your dog at a distance of several feet away. You want to initially work from under the threshold, this means from a distance where he is a bit less likely to react. The moment he hears the doorbell immediately make the smacking noise with your mouth and deliver a treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you classical condition your dog to love that sound. You know that happens when, upon hearing the doorbell, your dog looks at you anticipating the treat. You are basically, changing your dog's emotional state about the doorbell.

Dogs mainly live through associations; indeed many live on these equations: can opener = food, leash = walk, doorbell = guests, and so forth. What we are trying to accomplish here is to associate doorbell and men with treats and good things happening!

Note: If your dog is still barking at the doorbell and does not accept treats, you are working too closely, and he is too aroused, try to work from the farthest room of the house initially.

Step 3: Conditioning to Opening the Door

Have a volunteer ring the doorbell. Proceed as usual, giving the treat upon hearing the ring. Now, have the volunteer open the door a little bit. Before your dog goes in a barking frenzy, try to toss two-three treats on the floor. Have the volunteer stand there until the dog eats all the treats. Then have the volunteer leave. What we are trying to accomplish is to make the dog learn this equation: "When the male guest appears I get treats, when he disappears, the treats are gone."

Step 4: Conditioning to Presence of Men

Continue the exercise but have the volunteer gradually open the door more and more. Repeat giving 2–3 treats the moment the door opens and then have it closed when the dog is done eating. At one point, have the door completely open with the man there not looking at your dog with his head turned sideways not making eye contact, and not talking. At this point, give 4–5 bite-sized treats and have the man close the door and leave when he is done. Repeat this sequence of opening the whole door and closing it. Be good in your timing! And never have the man leave if your dog barks. If he barks, get his attention back on you by making the smacking noise with your mouth and giving treats for stopping.

Note: If at some point, your dog is getting increasingly nervous, step back a bit in the program and go back to having the guest just opening the door a bit. Every time you note your dog has a setback, go back a few steps in training.

Step 5: Conditioning to Men Coming Inside

Have your guest now open the door—and hopefully, your dog by now has learned to look for treats—and have him take one step into the home. Continue giving 4–5 treats, and once the dog is done, have the man step back and close the door. Yes, you got it: your objective is to continue until your guest can walk inside your home without your dog going into a frenzy. At some point, you want your guest to take over and be the one to toss the treats upon opening the door and stepping in. The more the person comes close, the more high value and more treats are delivered. If you can, actually invest in a Kong, stuff it up and have your guest toss it towards your dog. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

If you want to be extra successful, you can also set up your volunteers with mealtime. Have them come over when your dog needs fed and have them open the door, come in and place the food bowl down, watch him eat from a distance and then toss a nice treat before leaving. All good things start when the guest is over, and all good things end when the guest leaves.

One thing about dogs is that they do not generalize well. Therefore, if your dog learns to accept males as guests, he may not accept males on walks. You may have to make the smacking sound with your mouth every time a man is walking nearby and then have some men on walks volunteer in tossing treats. May I recommend a great read? "Cautious Canine" by Patricia McConnell, which gives details about a similar approach.

With time, your dog may associate men with good things, and even though he may never trust a man fully, he will likely learn to tolerate him and be less and less likely to resort to his old defensive, aggressive behaviors, and mostly because there is simply no reason to! Men bring good things!

A Great Read for Defensive, Aggressive Dogs!


If your dog is exhibiting behavioral problems, please consult with a veterinarian specializing in behavioral problems or a dog behaviorist. By reading this article, you accept this disclaimer and fully assume responsibility for your actions.

© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli

Marlene Schaefer on May 14, 2017:

WE rescued a 2 year German Shepherd about 6 months ago. She is aggressive toward men, barking, snarling and even nipping them. She is fine with women, children and even other dogs, but she does not tolerate men at all. We don't have a lot of guests but I don't want her to bite. WE have put her on a leash but she continues to bark and growl at them. I don't want my dog to have to be a leash when people are over and certainly do not want her to bite. What do I do?

tanya on September 11, 2016:

she grawls at men but she is fine with my 19 year old son

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 12, 2016:

Many Akitas are standoffish by nature but growling is suggesting she's not comfortable. Use caution.

Akita on September 05, 2015:

My Akita mix is obedient enough to come when another man calls her, but she will growl the whole way there. Never bites, thank God

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 09, 2012:

Good luck and best wishes Giblin girl!

GiblinGirl from New Jersey on October 08, 2012:

These are some really great suggestions I'll have to try out.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 08, 2012:

Fear and play are a bit antagonist feelings, it is difficult for a dog to be fearful and play at the same time. Is she tentative with men and then once she gets to meet them she starts playing? If so, you need to train her manners, she gets only attention when her four feet are on the ground.

sharon mc laughlin on May 08, 2012:

my dog is scared of men but she will let them pet her but she will keep on barking and jumping on them playing

Surviving our dog’s adolescence

When we bring a new puppy home, we expect to teach her the basics of potty training, bite inhibition and general good manners around the house. We hopefully make sure to socialize her, and do our best to get her off to a good start. What we often underestimate though, is how short the puppy months really are and how challenging the adolescence period can be. Adolescent dogs can be rambunctious and full of energy. There are times when all the hard work we’ve put into teaching them basic good manners, just seems to have gone down the drain. The pup has stopped chewing on our hands and peeing in the house, but is now jumping on our visitors, marking around the yard, barking and lunging at other dogs or growling when we approach his food bowl. Just like people though, all dogs go through that period of development, there is no way to skip over it. Expecting it and being prepared to deal with the changes in our dog’s behavior makes it easier to live through without getting frustrated and give up on the dog altogether.

By the time our little male puppy reaches the age of 4-5 months, his testosterone levels start to rise. The male hormone will keep on climbing and peek around 10 months of age, then very slowly go down to reach adult levels around 18 months of age (Dunbar, 1999). These ages can vary from breed to breed and among individuals, but the important factor to keep in mind is this: adolescence in dogs generally occurs between 6-18 months and during that period, their brain is flooded with more hormones than ever. High levels of testosterone lead to greater reactivity with faster, longer and more intense responses to external stimuli. In females, rising levels of estrogen and progesterone during the same period may increase irritability and problems with other dogs as well as resource guarding issues (O’Heare, 2006). A typical behavior problem that occurs around that time is when the younger female in a multiple dog household, starts going after the older female, even though they had been getting along just fine during the previous months.

As a service dog trainer, I’m always working with teenage dogs. I have witnessed more times than I can account for, young social and easy going puppies change into reactive, resource guarding and distracted adolescents. Studies have shown how little we can predict those changes of behaviors from temperament tests (Taylor & al., 2006). When looking for a service dog, as a client, it’s therefore critical to think twice before getting a dog under 18 months despite any breeder’s assurances.

Fig 1: Salman & al., 2000, Behavioral Reasons for Relinquishment of Dogs to 12 Shelters

Those adolescent months sadly coincide with increased rate of relinquishment. According to the NCPPSP (National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy), the majority of dogs are surrendered to shelter between the ages of 5 months and 3 years of age (47.7%) and at least one behavior problem was reported as the reason for the surrender in 40% of the cases. The most common behavior issues ranged from biting, aggression towards people or animals to disobedience and destructiveness (see fig.1) (Salman & al., 2000). These numbers suggest that there is a need for more information and support to dog owners who don’t expect the behavioral changes or don’t know how to manage their dog’s reactions during that period of development.

Adolescent dogs don’t necessarily display such extreme behaviors that they no longer make safe pets. They’re very much like human teenagers. As young puppies, their priority was to stay close to us for obvious safety reasons. As they get a little older (yet not old enough for any kind of wisdom), our four legged youngsters become bolder and more interested in their surroundings (Starling & al., 2013). They want to explore more and tend to get more excited by any stimuli. Full of hormones and energy, they become more challenging to manage and will test our boundaries and our patience.

Here are a few pointers, a survival kit for adolescent dog parents:

1/ Keep reminding yourself that your dog will calm down as he gets older and look for ways to help him burn off some of the excess energy. Although some breeds or some individuals can be more energetic than typical, most dogs’ energy level will subside and gradually become more manageable. When my dog went through that period of life, taking her out for an hour or more of intense workout became a necessity for my own sanity. Once tired, she would finally rest or at least calm down instead of constantly pushing for attention and activity.

2/ Train your dog on an ongoing basis. Training is not something that we do for a short while and then stop. As our dogs go through different stages in life, it’s important to keep working with them. Puppies are great learners and so quick at mastering loose leash walking, sit and other behaviors. But as their brain gets flooded with hormones, those acquired behaviors get sloppy. There will be moments where the dog may look at us with a blank stare when given a well-known cue. At other times, the dog may be so distracted, that getting his attention requires all sorts of gimmicks, let alone getting him to respond to basic cues. Backing up, even to the very beginning of a trained behavior is often necessary. Training never improves in any linear way. The dog’s responsiveness goes up and down and during that period, it can be a real roller coaster, but it’s worth staying on the ride as sticking all the way through will pay off in the long run.

3/ Get help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist as soon as a behavior concern develops. It’s often during those months that the dog will start displaying fear or aggression problems. The longer any behaviors occurs, the harder it is to reverse the situation. When treating them right from the beginning, it’s sometimes possible to nip them in the bud so adolescent problems don’t become life long problems.

4/ Reinforce the dog for calm behavior. Teaching her to control those impulses is critical at this age. Any behavior that leads to a positive outcome will be repeated and over time become a habit that will continue during adulthood. A dog that gets let out or put on a leash before going for a walk, when barking or jumping will learn that you respond to barking and jumping. Getting out of the car, going to the dog park or dog daycare, greeting visitors, are all situations that are likely to generate excitement. They’re also opportunities to teach our dog that lunging, barking or jumping get in the way of what she wants. Patience, persistence and consistence are the key to teach our teenage hooligan to behave politely and appropriately (for more information see ‘Impulse control – the 6 keys to teaching our dog calm and polite behavior‘).

5/ Take your dog out for daily walks to keep his socialization up. Socializing puppies is critical, but just as important is providing our dogs with ongoing exposure to the world. During adolescence, many dogs will experience sudden fear of situations that they may have been exposed to earlier. Dogs that may have been a little timid as puppies, may now display reactive barking. Most aggression problems stem from an underlying feeling of insecurity. Safe and repeated exposure will help the dog develop more confidence over time (see ’10 effective ways to help our dog feel safe’).

6/ Expose the young dog to older, confident yet well-behaved adult dogs. Dogs learn to become socially acceptable around other dogs. They learn from other dogs how to play and interact appropriately and when it’s time to calm down or to stop. Older dogs will not allow for overly excitable rough housing and will interrupt a behavior when pushed too far.

Owning an adolescent dog can be challenging, but when we’re prepared, it can be a learning experience and a time to set good habits for both the dog and ourselves. Understanding that this is a temporary yet unavoidable developmental period in our dogs’ life can help us make better decisions. Just like we cannot give up on our teenage children, we should not give up on our teenage dogs. After all, they really can’t control their hormones and are just trying to cope with all the changes their body is going through.

Have a barking dog problem? You have options

Neighbors can be a noisy nuisance especially when they have dogs that won't stop barking.

However, It's not something you necessarily have to put up with.

Central Texas News Now investigated and found there are many things you can do to get your dogs or your neighbors to calm down the barking so you can have some peace of mind.

One woman in Waco, who did not want to reveal her identity, reached out to Central Texas News Now to tell us her neighbor's dogs bark constantly day and night.

"I suffer violently from migraines so when I come home sick as a dog ready to throw my heels up and all I can hear is, bark, bark, bark, bark, just constant, it's enough to make my head just pop off my shoulders," she said.

Fearing that the crying was because of neglect, she said she reached out to animal control, police, the Humane Society, and even the SPCA, to no avail.

That's when she called Central Texas News Now.

We went to that house to talk to the owner.

While the owner did not want to go on camera or tell us his name, he said he takes care of his dogs, but one of them is sick.

He added that they bark to protect the family.

"If you want something to guard your home, get a Smith and Wesson. It's Texas," the woman said.

This kind of situation actually plays out in Waco quite often, according to Waco Animal Control.

"Animal control gets a lot of calls probably about six a week around there," said Waco Animal Control Director Luis Leyva.

Leyva said his department takes those calls about noise and neglect seriously.

"We try to work with the owner to figure out a way to keep them from barking or anything like that, but sometimes, people, they don't care or they don't understand, they don't grasp what's actually going on. That's where animal control has to step in and figure something out," Leyva said.

That's when owners can get a Class C Misdemeanor, but Leyva said you can help prevent that by talking to your neighbor about the barking before calling animal control.

"You want to make sure everyone is being neighborly because a lot of people don't realize that their dog is barking and there is an issue," Leyva said.

To make sure your dog isn't an issue, Leyva suggests you give them plenty of exercise, bring them inside at night and cover your fence.

"If they can put a cover on their fence to try to keep the visual aspect out of it that could also help," Leyva said.

If all that doesn't work, Central Texas News Now found another option.

The company Good Life Ultimate Bark Control sent us a bark control device to try out. You can turn it on and let it work by itself or you can use a remote to control it.

"The way that this works is when the dog barks, the unit responds with an ultrasonic sound. This sound is not audible to humans. It's very loud but it does not hurt the dog's ears," said Good Life Chief Business Officer Sean Moeschl.

Our Makenzi Henderson has had it for months. She used it on her dogs, not her neighbors'.

At first, Henderson said it didn't seem to work especially not on her male dog, Marte. After about two months, however, she said she noticed Marte would not bark outside nearly as long.

Henderson said it worked on her female dog, Stella, right away especially when she was in her kennel.

She said when Stella would whine, she would press the remote and then Stella would stop and just cock her head, obviously hearing the sound.

Moeschl said while the device will stop nuisance barking, it will allow instinctual barking.

"So if the dog feels like it's protecting its turf or the owner is in danger, the dog is going to bark through whatever you do," Moeschl said.

While the device worked for Henderson, Leyva said his department doesn't recommend any method.

"Because we can't guarantee it like you were saying, it works for some and it doesn't work for others so I mean there is trial and error. Whatever works for you might be the best thing," Leyva said.

Leyva said if you are calling to report noise or neglect, make sure to get the exact address of the house. That makes it far easier for animal control officers to investigate.

If you're interested in a bark control device, there are several companies that offer them besides Good Life.

Copyright 2018 KXXV. All rights reserved.

How to Stop Excessive Labrador Barking

While a dog bark is perfectly natural, a Labrador barking too much is a headache for an owner and a nuisance for neighbors. There are many reasons for a barking dog, such as people passing by a window barking at other dogs when out on a walk or barking because they have been left alone a barking can quite literally drive you mad. Well, almost.

A barking Lab can cause problems with neighbours, other dog owners and even within the family. It is a big problem and one that really needs to be addressed.

Watch the video: Correcting the Nervous Energy. Cesar Millans Dog Nation (September 2021).