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Why Do Dogs Bark At Strangers?

Strangers are scary. Many humans don’t enjoy meeting new people, but they don’t (typically) yell it down the street. So, why do some dogs insist at raising their voices at strangers? Here are the top reasons why your dog won’t quit yapping at your pizza deliverers or dating-app conquests:

    see 1. Territorial instincts
    2. Sounding the alarm!
    3. Greeting

Territorial Instincts

Dogs are naturally territorial animals. In nature, unfamiliar creatures pose a threat when they encroach on an animal’s territory. Although your dog is domesticated and human-friendly, they still posses territorial instincts. (Yes, even your pudgy pug potato.) So, while you may see your mailman or new yoga pal as harmless beings, your dog views them as territory intruders. In dogs that are especially dedicated to defending their territories, visitors trigger fear and anticipation of a threat. This, in turn, motivates them to alert their pack and scare off intruders with, well, lots of noise. In breeds that are bred as guard dogs, such as German Shepherds and Mastiffs, this behavior is especially common.
 

Alarm barking

Dogs sometimes bark at unfamiliar people simply because they’re spooked! Pups can really live by the motto “stranger danger!” So what’s the difference between territorial barking and alarm barking? While similar, they have different motivations. For instance, a dog who barks territorially is mainly concerned with defending their turf. So, they’ll bark at strangers who approach their home, but not at strangers they meet on the street.

In contrast, an alarm barker unleashes woofs at new people wherever they are, whether in or outside of a dog’s territory. This behavior is common in dogs who are not socialized to people outside of their human family, as well as in dogs who are generally insecure. Not to fear though, you can definitely modify this behavior! If you do positive reinforcement training to boost their confidence, a nervous dog will start behaving with a little more security in new situations.
 

Greeting

On the other hand, your dog may really just love meeting new people! A dog who wants to say “Hi” to everyone, whether it’s the gardener or a stranger at the park, may bark their greeting. Greet barking is accompanied by tail wagging, whining, jumping, and other friendly gestures. These gregarious hounds simply want to smother everyone with their love! Keep in mind: While you know your dog is saying “hi! how are you! I love you!” others might not, so to curb this type of behavior, give your dog something else to do when they meet new people (like the “sit” or “place” commands).

As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs bark at strangers. They range from a dog’s duty to defend their turf, to a pup that’s eager to greet everyone in sight. If this behavior becomes problematic, determining the reason for your dog’s barking is the first step in finding a solution. You can find more information on dog types that bark more or less than others in order to choose the right pup for you!
 
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