Most dogs will bark at strangers once they feel comfortable in their new home. It is a natural behavior and usually does not have to be taught; however, not every dog will have this same protective drive. If your dog does not alert you to the presence of strangers, it is necessary to take extra steps to make him or her into an effective watchdog. This will help to train your dog towards being an effective hearing alert service dog.
Note that a watchdog is different from an attack dog. When training your dog to bark, you want alertness, not aggression. Below are some tips on how you can ensure that your dog takes their job seriously.
Socialize Your Dog
Ensuring that your dog is properly socialized is key to reducing their anxiety. The less anxious they are, the more comfortable they will feel in their home. The more at-home they feel, the more likely they are to be protective.
Teach Your Dog to Bark on Command
Find out what makes your dog bark and expose them to it. Whenever your dog barks, say “speak” and offer a treat. Of course, dogs do not speak English, so you are not limited to using “speak.” Consider using another less known common word or using a command in another language. This allows them to associate your command with barking and with a reward. When there is someone at your door, you can command them to bark and reward them when they do. They will eventually learn that you want them to bark when strangers come to your door, or that the phone is ringing.
When you start this, note that you may only get one or two barks initially. You will want to reward these first efforts. Over time, your dog’s confidence with barking will increase. It is also important to proceed slowly. You do not want your dog to get bored with the exercise.
Have Someone Come to the Door
Practice by having someone come to your door and giving the “speak” command, then rewarding your dog for barking. You can also have a friend call you and when the phone rings, give the "speak" command and reward them for barking.
Offer Positive Affirmation
When your dog barks at newcomers, take the time to give him or her praise. The more praise you lavish on your dog, the more they will enjoy the training and the faster you can expect positive results. You want your dog to know that you are pleased with them for barking. Positive affirmation is the best way to get your dog to adopt good behaviors.
When your doorbell rings or someone knocks at the door and your dog barks, make sure that your dog sees you checking the situation out. This can help to arouse your dog's interest in what is on the other side of the door. You will want to practice this regularly, so this is another exercise where you may need to enlist someone to help you.
Teach Your Dog to Be Quiet
It is important to note that barking can quickly become a nuisance to you and to your neighbors. You also do not want your service dog uncontrollably barking. You want your dog to bark in certain situations, but not constantly. Do not reward continuous barking. Along with the “speak” command, you will also want to teach them a “quiet” command. Use the same rewards and positive affirmation that you used to get them to start barking.
Some dog breeds will take to barking more quickly than others so the time it takes to train them may vary. In any case, you will be able to teach your dog to bark using the methods above but you will have to be both persistent and consistent.