Why does Pleasant Hill dog bark threateningly while wagging his tail?

DEAR JOAN: We have a barking dog problem. Our mixed breed (Great Dane/pit bull) barks when somebody he doesn’t recognize comes up to the house.

While he’s barking and growling and jumping around, all the while he’s wagging his tail like he’s happy to see the person on the walk. He starts to react when he hears or sees a vehicle stop in front of the house.

He also jumps about and wags his tail, without the barks and growl, when he’s greeting someone he recognizes.

Ignoring his behavior doesn’t work. Comforting him to reassure him the delivery is OK doesn’t work. The advice of rewarding him when he doesn’t bark hasn’t worked because he always reacts to someone “strange” out front.

How can we get him to stop, or at least cut back on the amount of barking?

Gregory Throne, Pleasant Hill

DEAR GREGORY: Sometimes it’s hard to know which end is telling the truth, but I always listen to the end with teeth. Don’t mistake a wagging tail for friendliness.

Training a dog not to bark at strangers is not an easy task. It is, after all, what dogs do — alert us to situations that are outside the norm. When strangers approach, they go on the defensive to protect their territories.

You might want to consult a professional dog trainer, but if you want to tackle this on your own, you’ll need a friend to help. First, train your dog in a behavior that doesn’t involve barking, such as sitting on command or going to his bed. Once he — and you — have that mastered, work on the stranger outside.

Have a friend come to the door. When the dog starts barking, tell him to sit or go to his bed. Reward him with a treat when he complies. Repeat the process over and over until he starts to associate someone at the door with getting a treat.

Outside, when you’re walking your dog, keep your eyes open for strangers. The minute you see one, pull your dog in close and tell him to “be nice.” Keep repeating the command, with some treats for distraction, until the stranger has passed. When I started training my dog in this way, it worked about 5 percent of the time. Now we’re up to about 98 percent. It pays to be persistent.

DEAR JOAN: I just spoke to a family that recently lost four cattle dogs that were running in the ash from the fires, attempting to retrieve cattle. They were doing their job and heading the cattle back, but the toxic ash killed them. What a tragedy for the family.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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