SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Ask a behaviourist
How to train your dog not to bark when welcoming you home?

My dog Phoebe barks every time I come home from work. Why does she do this, and do you have any tips to make her stop?

It’s important to remember that barking is a normal dog behaviour. Dogs were originally trained and bred to bark. There are lots of reasons why a dog could be barking. If Phoebe is barking when you get home from work, it’s most likely a bark to express her excitement – she’s happy to see you! If you use punishment as a way to prevent Phoebe’s barking when you get home, you’ll be punishing her joy to see you.

Simply ignoring the behaviour may not work, especially if Phoebe has been barking when you get home for a long time. Instead, work on replacing the behaviour you don’t like with another action. When you get home and Phoebe starts barking, ask her to sit or fetch a toy and reward her following that instruction with a treat. My dog Isabella also barks with excitement when I get home, and over time she has learnt that barking stops when I acknowledge her and greet her calmly by giving her a few pats or ear rubs.

On an extra note, some of this extreme behaviour can be due to mild separation anxiety, so being calm, relaxed and not encouraging the excessive vocalisation are also important. By consistently encouraging Phoebe to stop barking and sit or fetch a toy, I’m sure you can achieve this too. Good luck!

Have you got a question you’d like Dr Jess Beer to answer? Please email it to animalsvoice@spca.nz and it could be chosen for our next column.

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