Help! Dog Barks at One Family Member, Why and How to Stop It!

October 15, 2022 / Dog Training / By: Lilianna Parker

Dog Barks at One Family Member

Most dogs love to bark, but it can become bothersome when done excessively. This is especially true if your dog seems to just bark at one of your family members in particular.

Dogs will bark at specific people for several different reasons. However, most of the time this occurs simply because the dog is either very excited or anxious around that specific person.

Here we will be describing all of the possible causes of dogs barking at people.

We will also be explaining what you can do to stop this kind of behavior in your dog if you need to. 

Alright, let’s dive right in!

Why Does Your Dog Bark at Family Members?

There are several different reasons why dogs will bark at people, and they range from feelings of excitement to feelings of anxiety

Here are some of the possible reasons why your dog is barking at family members.

Trigger 1: Your Dog Is Excited To See Them

Many dogs will bark when they get very excited. As a result, it is only natural for dogs to bark at one of their favorite people. This is especially true if the dog is playing with that person or is getting treats.

An excited dog will exhibit body language that shows they are happy. This could include a wagging tail, play bows, and jumping around.

Similarly, excited dogs will also have a relaxed eye shape and ears.

Trigger 2: Your Dog Is Anxious Around Them

Anxiety can also cause dogs to bark at a particular person. Dogs will do this as a way to say “stay away from me” when they feel threatened.

An anxious dog will likely show more signs of their anxiety in addition to barking.

Having their ears pinned back, showing the whites of their eyes, and crouching low to the ground are all signs of anxiety in dogs.

Similarly, dogs that feel threatened by a person may also snarl, growl, and snap at the air.

This type of aggressive behavior will accompany barking when a dog is feeling very threatened or if their previous signs of anxiety have been ignored by a person.

Trigger 3: Your Dog Senses That Something Is Different

Sometimes dogs will bark at a person when their appearance suddenly changes.

Drastic changes in hairstyles and clothing tend to be the most common reasons why dogs get confused by a person’s appearance.

This is especially the case when that person is wearing a mask or a costume that drastically changes how they look.

Even wearing a hat can sometimes confuse dogs as to who is around, especially if that person isn’t around often.

Trigger 4: Your Dog Wants Attention

Some dogs will learn that excessively barking at people will get them the attention that they desire. If your dog has picked up this bad habit, then it is very likely that this is the cause of your dog barking at your family member.

Trigger 5: Your Dog Doesn’t Like Greeting New People

Sometimes anxiety is not caused by the person mistreating your dog, rather their introduction to one another went awry.

This is particularly common in dogs that have not been socialized or have generalized anxiety.

For dogs that get anxious about greeting new people, it is a good idea to let new people know what makes your dog comfortable.

For example, many nervous dogs do not like being petted by strangers. In these cases having the person toss your dog a delicious treat could be a good compromise.

Making your dog feel more comfortable when greeting others is likely to reduce the amount of barking. This will not only put your dog more at ease but all the people involved in the interaction as well.

My Dog Growls at my Husband But Not Me. Does He Hate Him?

how to stop a dog from growling at family members

The word hate is pretty strong when it comes to dogs’ emotions towards other people. It is more likely that a dog is feeling frightened or anxious around the person that they are growling at.

Although it is true that this behavior can result from the person mistreating the dog, other things can also be causing this behavior.

Sometimes dogs feel threatened by a person’s body language or tone of voice.

Why is my Dog Suddenly Growling at my Son?

There are several different things that could cause a dog to suddenly growl at someone when they hadn’t before.

Possibly the most common reason that dogs suddenly growl at children is thanks to resource guarding behavior.

This is especially true if the child frequently takes things from the dog like toys, treats, and food.

This makes the dog feel as if he needs to be aggressive in order to protect these things from the child.

Similarly, differences in appearance could temporarily startle the dog and cause them to growl. Things like masks, hats, and costumes are usually the cause of this.

Of course, it could also be possible that the dog doesn’t enjoy the way that the child plays with them.

Playing very rough and frequently teasing a dog could make them frustrated, anxious, or even frightened in some instances.

This will lead to growling, barking, and possibly some other behavioral issues as well.

How do I Get my Dog to Stop Barking at Family Members?

how do I get my dog to stop barking at family members

The first step to stopping your dog from barking at family members is to find out what is causing the behavior. Once you have done that, then you are ready to go about finding solutions. 

Here are four ways to stop your dog from barking at family members.

Counter Bark Technique 1: Reduce Your Dog’s Anxiety When Greeting People

Many dogs will bark out of anxiety, and when this is the case making them feel less anxious is key.

This is especially true when greeting new people and engaging in interactions that could make them feel nervous. Once their anxiety is reduced, so is the barking.

You can make a dog feel less anxious during social interactions by giving them things that they like such as treats and toys. This will help make the association between new people and fun things.

Similarly, it can be a good idea to provide your dog with a safe and relaxing space to retreat to when they are feeling overwhelmed. A crate in a quiet part of the house or a comfortable back room are both excellent safe spaces for dogs.

Counter Bark Technique 2: Have a Way to Calm Your Dog Down When Overexcited

Dogs will also often bark when they get overexcited. Having a way to calm your dog down in these excitable moments is key to stopping excessive excitement barking at people.

A great way to calm an overexcited dog when people come over is to redirect them with a calming activity that is rewarding and gets their minds going.

Using an activity toy, a snuffle mat, or a KONG filled with high value treats are great hands-off ways of distracting your dog.

The goal is that these activities will keep your dog calm while they are still getting used to the person being there.

If activity toys are not working for you and your dog, then going through some tricks or basic obedience commands can help by working in the same way.

Counter Bark Technique 3: How to Stop Attention Barking

The best way to stop attention barking in dogs is to ignore it. This way the dog learns that barking at people no longer gives them attention.

Consistently ignoring your dog when they are barking and only giving them attention when they are quiet will effectively stop attention barking.

However, everyone involved will need to be on the same page. This includes all family members and guests

Counter Bark Technique 4: Get to Know What Makes Your Dog Nervous

Knowing what types of things make your dog nervous will help you to prevent those things from happening. When successful, anxiety barking in the dog should stop as well.

Not all dogs are the same, so really knowing what makes your dog tick is important. For example, some dogs enjoy being pet, while others do not.

Similarly, certain types of play such as rough play could make dogs anxious, especially when playing with individuals that the dog doesn’t know well.

What to do With a Dog That Bites Their Owner

what to do if a dog bites their owner

It is no easy thing when a dog bites a person, especially when that person is their owner.

Here is what you should do if your dog bites someone.

Step 1: Separate the Dog and the Person

The first thing that you should always do when a dog bites someone is separate the dog from the person.

This helps to de-escalate the situation while you regroup.

This is also a good time to assess any injuries on the person and if they need to seek medical care.

Step 2: Analyze the Cause of the Bite

There are three main causes for dogs to bite a person, and these are defensive aggression, offensive aggression, and play biting without bite inhibition.

Play Biting

Play biting without bite inhibition refers to play biting that has the strength of an actual bite.

Most of the time this occurs because the dog did not learn bite inhibition as a puppy, which is fairly common in dogs that were separated from their littermates too early. Dogs play biting will not appear aggressive or anxious.

Defensive Aggression

Defensive aggression refers to a dog lashing out aggressively because they are frightened.

Dogs that are being defensively aggressive will also likely growl, snarl, and show anxious body language before biting.

Offensive Aggression

Offensive aggression occurs when a dog is being protective or is acting on their prey drive. Staring, chasing, and lunging can all occur when a dog is being offensively aggressive.

Finding out the reason behind a dog’s biting is very important because this will dictate what you can do to prevent the behavior from occurring again in the future.

Step 3: Seek Out Training or Veterinary Treatment

The next step in this process is to find the solution to the problem. For biting caused by aggression, it is a good idea to seek out some help from a qualified dog trainer.

Similarly, bite inhibition training can stop rough play biting.

It is also a good idea to get your dog evaluated by a vet. This is because a sudden onset of aggressive behavior can be caused by pain or a medical condition.

***

There you have it!

Everything that you need to know about dogs barking at family members and how to fix it. Remember, finding out what is causing the behavior is the key to finding the solution. 

You can do this!

WRITTEN BY

Lilianna Parker

Lilianna Parker is a certified dog trainer through the Animal Behavior College, and has been involved in training dogs in the New York State community for several years. Lilianna has also written numerous works on dog training using positive reinforcement. She believes that every dog owner should have the tools that they need to see their dogs succeed. Her articles and blog posts about dog training are excellent ways for dog owners to get started with force-free training. She owns Simply Positive Dog Training and when she’s not writing or training, she enjoys going for hikes with her Shiba Inu called Cleo!

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