By Susan Smith

My puppy Pumba is 8months. He is a Maltese mixed with a Maltipoo. Can anyone please help with any tips? Or suggestions? Pumba does well at the park with people and other dogs BUT at home he barks nonstop at ALL visitors we cannot get him to calm down. It becomes frustrating and embarrassing.

This is a pretty common problem. The first thing I’d like to address is that Pumba is not a puppy. He’s an adolescent well on his way to adulthood. Although people refer to dogs of all ages as puppies, puppies are actually quite different than grown dogs, and their behavior is very different. Pumba is probably protecting his territory.

My guess is that you are not doing any actual training with Pumba, but simply reacting to him when you have visitors. Any good training needs to be initially done where you control the environment. If you are embarrassed or frustrated, the environment is controlling you. Human analogy:  You are asked to recite one of Shakespeare’s sonnets while zip-lining for the first time, ever! Pumba is so far over threshold that he’s not really able to pay attention to you. Additionally, this is the behavior pattern he has learned, so it’s his go-to reaction to visitors in the house.

If you really want him to stop, you need to do set-ups. Start with people he likes (perhaps family members, if he barks when they come home). As they enter the house, if Pumba barks, they immediately leave. He’ll soon learn that when he barks, people he likes go away. Once he’s figured that out, you can put a cue on it. Once the cue is strong, start working with strangers – you’ll have to be creative in finding strangers that will help, but they’re obviously out there, since you’re having a problem.

The only caveat to this, is if Pumba really doesn’t like them and wants them to go away. In that case, their leaving is reinforcing his barking, and this technique will not work. However, since he gets along with people in other situations, there’s a good chance this will work. If not, you’ll probably need to consult with a trainer.

If you have questions for the trainer, please send them to Susan Smith, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.