A Guide to Quieting Your Dog's Window Watchdog
Is it normal for dogs to bark out of windows?
While barking out of windows is common, it is not a behavior we must allow. Many dog breeds were developed to use their voices and alert us to threats. In urban environments today, we don’t typically need this behavior, which can also be problematic for neighbors.
Dogs who bark at neighborhood activity are more likely to remain agitated throughout the day. This can carry over to unwanted behaviors during walks, such as barking or lunging at people and dogs.
Some dogs may also bark at sudden noises like car doors closing.
Dogs should spend most of the day resting and not be agitated on a regular basis. There is substantial research on the physical health risks of chronic stress in humans, and it is not a stretch to think some of this may be the same for dogs.
Over time, some dogs become increasingly agitated and may even accidentally break through a window while charging and barking from inside. This is dangerous for everyone due to the broken glass and a potential altercation with someone on the street.
Why do dogs bark out the window?
Some dogs will see something, such as a person or dog, that is exciting. Dogs might bark out of frustration or excitement. Seeing the person or dog leave may increase frustration and excitement.
Other dogs may bark out of fear. When they bark, the person or dog outside will leave - because the other family is just out for a walk. The dog in the house may superstitiously believe that barking contributes to others staying away.
Is my dog being protective or territorial?
While some dogs have been selectively bred to guard spaces and scare off threats, that’s not as common in modern times for family dogs. Most dogs who bark at the window will display fearful behavior of people or dogs in other contexts. Dogs who are fearful are not being noble and protective; they want to feel safe.
How do I train my dog to stop barking?
We can teach dogs a signal to stop barking. However, if the underlying motivation is barking out of fear or excitement, we need to change those emotions rather than change the barking. This process likely will start with training outside of your home by teaching your dog to feel safe around people or dogs. Training them to feel safe starts with a lot of distance, but the distance will decrease over time. You can read more about reactivity or schedule a one-on-one training session.
3 Tips to Prevent Barking
Covering the Windows
Prevention is key. There are various window film products available. These products are often used on front doors or bathroom windows for privacy. The two most common styles are either an adhesive or cling-on with no adhesive. You can purchase them online or at many home supply stores.
By blocking the view from the window, you will still get light coming in, but your dog will not see activity outside clearly, reducing reactivity.
You only need to block off a lower area if you have a short dog. If your dog is taller, you may need to apply the product higher up. Sometimes closing curtains may work, though many dogs may push curtains to the side. Blinds may be effective; however, blinds are expensive and easily damaged - it’s usually better to use the window film!
Another strategy is to use baby gates or close doors so your dog cannot access some of the windows. This method will prevent your dog from rehearsing the behavior.
Using white noise or putting the TV on may be helpful so that outdoor noises are less obvious to your dog.
What do I do if my dog starts barking?
Immediately intervene in a neutral way. That could be getting your dog and moving him into another room or walking him away from the window. In a moment when a dog barks, we don’t need to focus on training. Our priority is helping him to feel safe.
If you know that barking is the worst when people are going to/from work, let him rest in his crate or gate him in another room with you during those times. Focus on prevention rather than reacting to his behavior.
Continued Training for Barking Dogs
Reduce your dog’s opportunity to rehearse the behavior by changing his environment. Find opportunities to help him feel more safe with people or dogs (in the distance) and intervene if your dog starts to bark.
Reach out for help - we can help you build your dog’s confidence so everyone is happier and more relaxed.