Dear Jeni: My Border Collie barks excessively when someone arrives at my home, which in turn gets my other dogs riled up. How can I train him to stop barking when I tell him to?
It can be helpful to have a dog who alerts you when someone is approaching your home, as long as they aren’t continuously barking and disturbing you or your other pets. Here is one way to teach your dog that it’s OK to alert you, but when you tell him to stop, he needs to stop. Start by staging a visitor (preferably a non-household member). You should be prepared with plenty of high-value treats, such as hot dogs cut into small pieces, and a water squirt bottle. If possible have your other dogs in a separate room to minimize distraction. Before your visitor approaches, praise your dog for being quiet with plenty of treats and tell him “Goooood quiet.” Have your visitor approach in a relaxed friendly manner. Your dog will bark to let you know there is a visitor, but after a couple barks, tell him “Quiet.” If he continues to bark, say “Ah-Ah!” and squirt him with the spray bottle. The moment your dog stops barking, toss him treats and praise with “Goooood! Good Quiet!” As your visitor approaches have them verbally praise your dog when he is quiet. If your visitor can fully approach when your dog is quiet, they should also treat and praise. Try to set aside at least 5 minutes a day and use different visitors to practice. Once you think your dog has improved, you can then add your other dogs to the mix and practice with them in the room as well.