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I have a couple Beagle/Lab mixes and they seem to think it's their job to bark and sometimes growl at anybody within eye sight. What is funny to me is that they tend to do it mostly when there is no chance that the person they are barking at can get to them, almost like they are putting on a show for MY benefit so that i will think they are tough.

Inside the house is when they are the worse, they like to look out the window and if someone passes by (even if they are across the street and down the road a ways) they like to give long howling barks, they used to even bark at people they seen walk by a window inside the house across from us. Many times it will be one or the other who set the other dog off, for example, one of them could be at the other end of the house and one of them will bark at a stranger, the other dog will haul ass into the room and join in on the fun.

Sam likes to give a low "huff" rather than a actual bark most the time, the best way i can describe it is to say that it's more of a whisper, she really only BARKS when the other dog eggs her on by barking. Normally when she is out front with me laying on the front porch that is all she will do when see sees somebody, now and then she throws in a half assed growl.

Outside is a slightly different story, if i am sitting on the porch with them or taking them out to use the bathroom they seem to react in a more mild way, when they start barking at people or get excited over a cat that is not ours (we have 3 cats that they are great with) i will make them sit until they have calmed down and have began letting them watch as the person or animal walks by while they sit, my favorite phrase while doing so is to tell them "just watch". My theory is that by doing so, it will teach them self control and they will no longer run to the end of their leash to whatever has gotten their attention. 90% of the time they will sit on command but still whine and sometime shake with excitement while watching. after the object that excited them has gone out of site i will praise them and bring them inside for a treat

Would you suggest i keep doing this the way i am or do you think i should be stepping in front of them so that they will not fixate on the source of excitement in the first place? I suspect that they think they are protecting their home or that they are just doing it for my benefit.
 

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That's good as far as it goes, but you should start working on getting them to focus their attention on you. Like anything else, you work on it in a distraction free environment to begin with. Then you add distractions at a distance where they will alert but not move into a high level of excitement....and make it go like that until you can get them to "lookit me" while somebody walks, skips, or runs past your fence, and rattles a stick across the pickets or chain links. It would probably be best to work with them individually at first.

Dogs stay calmer and have a less stressful life when they reflexively look to the master, rather than bearing the burden of making the decisions. I'm okay with my dog woofing once or twice (when in our yard), but he then should look to me to find out what he's supposed to think about this person passing by or heading down the walk.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
They do tend to look up at me while outside after a bark or two, then i tell them to sit and say "enough", that's when they go into their "whisper bark" mode.
 
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