When do puppies start barking at strangers?

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

So as a new pet parent with an adorable ball of fur, you were struck dumb when your little cutie suddenly went berserk with yaps and barks at a delivery guy at your front porch. And you’re thinking, “Isn’t she too young for that?” 

Or maybe you have a 3-month-old pup who hasn’t made any significant attempt to bark like a normal dog, and you’re already wondering if something may be wrong. But, at what age do puppies start barking anyway and when will mine start yapping at strangers like other pups in my neighbourhood? 

If you have questions like these running through your mind, then grab a cup of your favourite beverage because you’ll find the answers to all those puzzling questions in the next few minutes. Relax and keep scrolling.

[1] When do puppies start barking at strangers?

If you’re a first-time dog owner, you may be surprised when your little ball of fur suddenly starts barking at everything that moves. Or it may be the other way round, your dog has refused to bark.

Well, the latter can be a little disappointing especially if you prefer very protective and vocal dogs. But, before you start feeling blue it may just be that your pup hasn’t found his/her voice. Although barking is something that comes naturally to all canines, they still have to learn it and it takes time to fully develop. 

All puppies don’t grow or develop at the same rate, some will start barking in their 6th week, others will take much longer, and a few others may start sooner than 6 weeks. When dogs start barking, they will bark at virtually anything that moves, including strangers. 

Your puppy may start barking at strangers through the window, neighbours crossing the yard or visitors and delivery guys. She may bark because they’re excited to see someone new, or they may be trying to alert you. 

[2] Do puppies go through a barking “stage”?

Puppies go through different stages of development before they fully transition into adult dogs. The first few weeks of a puppy’s life involves getting up on her feet, becoming aware of her environment and of course, finding her voice. 

A puppy will first start to vocalize between the 2nd and 3rd week of her life, but this will only be little whines and grunts. Some puppies start barking by the 7th or 8th week, this is usually for small dog breeds while large breeds wait for much longer (16th week or longer) before they can become fully vocal and bark like adult dogs. 

Throughout the puppy stage, dogs develop and discover new traits in themselves, and surely they do get excited when they learn something new. For instance, a pup who just found her voice will excitedly bark at everything and anything. She’ll bark when she wants attention, she’ll bark when she wants to play, she’ll bark at the TV, she’ll bark at other dogs, and she’ll definitely bark just for the fun of it. They will bark simply because they can. 

If you’ve observed that your pup just barks at anything, even at the faintest sound, she may just be going through this stage. You may want to ignore your pup and allow this behaviour to fade away with time, but maybe you shouldn’t. Unprovoked and perpetual barking can be a nuisance and if not properly handled, this can easily become a life-long habit and you may find yourself dealing with a noisy dog. 

As your pup grows and becomes more territorial, her bark at strangers may be to warn and scare them off. As soon as your little cutie becomes vocal and starts to show off her voice, you should consider training her to bark on command.

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[3] How to train a dog to bark on command

Barking is the major way dogs communicate. Dogs will bark when they’re trying to draw your attention to something, they will bark when they see or hear something unusual, they also bark when they’re playing or having fun. And some dogs will definitely bark for no reason at all, just barking because they feel like it. 

Persistently barking for nothing in particular can be a little over the line and come across as disturbance, this is a behaviour you want to cut short before it becomes a habit. Training your dog to bark on command will enable you control when he/she barks and when it’s time to be quiet. And here’s how to teach puppy to bark on command. 

Choose a treat: when teaching your puppy a new behaviour, it’s very important to give her rewards when she does exactly what you want her to do. This will act as positive reinforcements and help her learn faster. The perfect reward for your puppy will be her favourite treat, the more your dog loves the reward the faster she’ll learn. Make the training fun and exciting, and she’ll learn even faster. 

Get your dog to bark and reward her with a treat: get your dog to bark by exciting her in some way, either you wave a treat at her and when she reaches for it, hide it and watch her bark for it. Or you can try playing her favourite game, simply get her to bark and when she does, reward her with a treat. 

Pick your command word: next, is to pick a name for the behaviour. The most common English command words used to tell dogs to bark are “speak” and “talk”. You can use either of them or pick your own special word. The idea is that when your dog is about to bark, say the word just before she barks and reward her if she proceeds to bark. You can also pair the command word with a hand signal. 

Use the command word and a treat: once your dog realizes that she gets treats for barking, expect her to keep barking. However, do not reward her when she barks without any cues from you. Say the command word before she barks and reward her only when she correctly follows the cue. Do this several times until she only barks when you want her to, you can also practise with her outside your home. 

Gradually withdraw the reward: if you observe that your dog has come to the point where she immediately responds to your “speak” command with a bark, gradually start to withdraw the treats. In other words, don’t give her treats every time she barks on command because this will only slow down the learning process. You can start by giving her a treat every three times she barks on command, then every five times and so on.  

[4] How to train a dog to bark when a visitor is at the door

If you particularly like it when your dog barks to tell you when you have a guest or barks at strangers approaching your property, you can train her to do so. This may seem odd, but there are some perks that come with your dog being alert in the presence of strangers. 

It can be that you have a big house and may be unable to hear the doorbell from some parts of the building, and your dog’s barks will get your attention faster. Or it may be strictly for security reasons, especially if you leave alone. Either way, having both a furry friend and an alert guard dog in one is much better than a sleepy pet. It’s a good feeling to have your dog look out for you. 

Training your dog to bark when a visitor is at the door builds on the “bark on command” habit. Once you train your pup to bark on command, getting him/her to bark when the doorbell rings becomes much easier. For this exercise, you’ll need to enlist a friend or neighbour to help you. 

Get hold of your dog’s favourite treat and ask your friend/neighbour to approach your door and knock or ring the bell. At the sound of the knock/doorbell, give your dog the “speak” command and a treat when she barks. 

Repeat the exercise until your dog barks at the sound of the doorbell without you having to give her a “speak” command, this is the goal. Give your dog a treat when she responds to the doorbell or knock without a “speak” command and continue to practise at intervals for several days. 

You can even go out through the back door and ring the doorbell and check her reaction. Once this starts to set in as a new behaviour for your dog, gradually start withdrawing the reward but continue to pet and praise her, your pup will eventually get the message and bark when there is a knock or when the doorbell rings.

[5] How do I stop my puppy from barking at strangers?

Puppies get excited when they first discover that they can bark to get someone’s attention, and as yours learn to bark expect him/her to bark for the fun of it. In the life of a puppy, when she gets to the stage of experimenting with her voice and simply enjoying being vocal, how she is handled at that stage will determine if she’ll end up being a nuisance and barking at every strange thing that moves. 

Besides training your pup to bark on command and when to be quiet, socializing also plays a huge role in getting her to meet strangers without going berserk with yaps and barks. This can be rude and you may find yourself having to always apologize to people because of your dog. 

A 3-week-old pup is already old enough to start socializing and meeting different people, taking your puppy out with you so she/he can meet and interact with other humans and animals is a great way to go. However, if you have a dog that can’t stand strangers and practically barks at every new face, then you have work on that pup. 

First, you have to find out if she barks at everyone or just certain people. If your puppy barks at every strange face, then you have to start serious socialization and obedience training. And most importantly teach her the “quiet” command. Just like training your dog to bark on command, training her to stay calm and be quiet is also very important. 

Teaching  your dog the “quiet” command is very similar to teaching her the “speak” command. While the “speak” command gets her to bark, the “quiet” or “enough” command gets her to stop barking and be quiet. 

If your dog already knows how to bark on command, then training her to stop barking becomes a walk in the park. To do this, grab her favourite treat (as usual), and tell her to speak, after a few barks tell her “quiet” and give her a treat. 

Again, say “speak” and then say “quiet” and give her a treat. Then repeat the exercise but this time say “quiet” and wait for her to stop barking before the treat comes. You want her to associate the word “quiet” with “stop barking and get a treat” and when she does, then continue the exercise while gradually withdrawing the treat. 

This may sound easy enough, but it’ll take hours of practise spread out over a few days. Eventually, your pup will learn the “quiet” command which you can use to get her to stop barking at random strangers, especially those that mean no harm.   

[6] Why does my dog not bark at all?

Barking is a normal canine behaviour, so it’s only natural to expect your dog to bark sometimes. But if you have a dog who you’re sure is old enough to bark but isn’t barking at all, now this can be very unusual and even disturbing. 

A boisterous and habitual barker isn’t the ideal dog, neither is a completely silent one. Even as some dog breeds are more vocal than others, complete silence in dogs is quite unnatural and can be a sign of some medical condition. 

But there are other reasons why a dog will be mostly quiet (though not completely silent) and here are a few reasons why your dog may rarely bark — or not bark at all.

Breed Type

Some dog breeds are naturally inclined to bark a lot more than others, especially breeds that are natural guard dogs. For instance, German Shepherds are more vocal and tend to bark a lot more than the Basenjis. 

Basenjis naturally do not bark due to the unusual shape of their larynx, but they aren’t exactly voiceless either, Basenjis communicate by making a sound called “yodel”. 

There are other dog breeds that can bark, but rarely do, like the Great Dane, Greyhound, Bullmastiff, Bulldogs, etc. These are very calm dogs and if you have one, you won’t see her bark very often.

Dog Personality

Just like breeds are different, individual dogs within a given breed type are also different. Dogs have personalities too, and they all uniquely differ from each other. A shy and introverted Frenchie will not be nearly as loud as a super-energetic and playful one, and this has nothing to do with ill health. 

If you’ve had the opportunity to closely observe very different dogs of the same breed, you’d have a clear picture of varying dog personalities. Some very shy dogs will never bark without provocation because they never want to draw unnecessary attention to themselves. 

Possible Medical Condition 

When a dog doesn’t bark at all, then there could be something medically wrong. A condition known as laryngeal paralysis affects a dog’s ability to bark. 

Laryngeal paralysis is a condition in which the muscles of the larynx become paralysed, this affects the dog’s ability to take deep breaths and bark normally. 

This condition mostly affects older dogs but it can also affect puppies. When seen in adult dogs, it’s called “acquired laryngeal paralysis” and the same condition in puppies is called “congenital laryngeal paralysis. 

Congenital laryngeal paralysis is only seen in the Bouvier des Flandres dog breed. Symptoms of laryngeal paralysis include, laboured breathing, gagging while eating/drinking, and voice change or loss. 

Wrapping Up

As a pet parent, it’s interesting to watch your furry baby as she gradually transforms from an adorable puppy to an energetic and loyal dog. Sometimes, this transformation may happen way too soon and other times it may seem like it’s taking forever. 

All puppies (especially those of different dog breeds) grow at different rates. A neighbour’s 7 weeks old Bulldog already barks at every strange face, while at 10 weeks old your Greyhound isn’t making any real effort to bark like a normal dog. This is probably because your Greyhound is growing at her own pace and will bark when she can.

Breed type, growth rate and individual dog personality are some factors that determine when a pup will start barking at strangers, the presence of adult dogs also helps a pup become vocal much faster. Barking is a natural dog trait and whether at 2 or 6 months, yours will eventually start barking.