Why Do Dogs Bark at Delivery Trucks?
Many dogs bark at delivery trucks, so much so, that many dog owners no longer need to have UPS and Fedex drivers honk their horns or ring the doorbell to announce their arrival: Rover takes over with his relentless barking. Following are some reasons why dogs bark at delivery trucks.
To Sound the Alarm
Many dogs bark at delivery trucks because they perceive them as intruders entering their property. Here's the thing: many dogs are naturally predisposed to sound the alarm when something or someone enters their perceived premises.
In ancient times, alarm barking in dogs was a highly-valued trait. A dog's barking was treasured because it alerted residents of any approaching dangerous animals or humans with hostile intention.
This early warning allowed the residents sufficient time to rally some type of defense and spared them from the need to employ human guards to work nigh shifts.
This allowed the residents a better lifestyle and more restorative sleep, explains Stanley Coren in the book: "The Modern Dog: A Joyful Exploration of How We Live with Dogs Today." Due to the importance of barking, it therefore made sense to selectively breed dogs who barked louder.
While barking may have been a treasured trait in the past, nowadays more and more dog owners struggle with it. Neighbors may complain and dog owners may no longer appreciate barking when directed towards things and people we actually want to have over our properties such as the pizza guy, mail man and delivery trucks.
To Drive Away Intruders
From your perspective, delivery trucks bring you desired supplies and food, but from your dog's perspective, delivery trucks are menacing monsters on wheels to send away by using his fierce barking.
Just as it happens with dogs who bark at the mailman, dogs who bark at delivery trucks come to believe that it's thanks to their barking that these delivery trucks eventually leave.
Well... we all know what's really happening instead. In reality, it's not like the delivery truck is really retreating specifically because the dog barks, it's just that the driver happens to have to leave and continue his route as always-but your dog instead just interprets things his way.
Therefore, day after day, your dog's barking will keep persisting and the more he barks, the more the behavior becomes ingrained and more difficult to extinguish. Actually, the barking may increase in intensity and may start happening earlier and earlier such as from quite a distance.
It's as if the dog was saying "What part of my message are you not getting? Go away! I just said, go away! I'll keep on barking until you leave and if you don't, I'll bark louder and will go to plan B."
To Manifest Fear
Even in what looks like territorial behavior, there may be some component of fear at play. Dogs will bark and growl to manifest their fear and a fear of a big scary truck that moves fast and honks a loud horn makes sense.
This antagonist response towards a delivery truck or a delivery person holding a box can be a type fear aggression, although it is often mistaken for offensive or territorial aggression, explain Marty Becker, Mikkel Becker and Lisa Radosta in the book: "From Fearful to Fear Free, A Positive Program to Free Your Dog from Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias."
It can occur when the delivery truck appears and the dog is surprised by the unexpected and sudden arrival. Owners of such dogs often describe them as being shy, nervous and overly cautious.
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs have their own good reasons who barking at delivery trucks, the next question now is how to stop these dogs from going into a frenzy?
"Territoriality can be managed or treated, but the prognosis is poor when owners are unable or unwilling to avoid triggers and cannot manage the dog safely," explains board-certified veterinary behaviorist Gary Landsberg in the book: "Behavior: A Guide For Practitioners, An Issue of Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice."
With this in mind, following are several tips for owners of dogs who have decided to make delivery trucks their primary enemies.
- Prevent rehearsal of the problematic behavior. As mentioned, repeated dog barking at delivery trucks may become quite an ingrained habit, so it's a good idea to take steps to prevent this as much as possible and make the sight and sound of delivery trucks less salient.
- Block visual access to windows. If your dog engages in frantic barking at the sight of the truck, it's important to prevent him from seeing them. You can apply window film to your windows or simply block off access to them if your dog climbs on a sofa to look outside. Pull the blinds, move the sofa away or simply keep your dog in a room where he cannot see outside or erect a baby gate so he stays far from windows/doors.
- Keep your dog indoors. If your dog is kept outside in your fenced yard most of the time where he practices his barking behavior, it's important keeping him indoors. The fence marks the perimeter of your property making your dog more likely to act territorial.
- Buffer the sound. If your dog reacts to the sound of delivery trucks passing by, you may find it helpful to buffer sounds by keeping the radio or T.V. on in hopes of masking outdoor noises.
- Create positive associations. If your dog is reactive towards the noise of the truck, it can help creating positive associations with it. Here is how to do this using the "hear that method."
- Train your dog an incompatible behavior. If your dog tends to bark at the sight or sound of delivery trucks, you can train him to engage in an alternate behavior such as training your dog to lie on a mat where he will receive some long-lasting goodies (that you'll keep readily handy so to give at a moment's notice) that he can enjoy, hopefully until the truck is gone. With frequent repetition, your dog will come to look forward to the truck arriving due to all these positive associations.
- Avoid touching your dog such as grabbing him by the collar or pushing him away as dogs who are territorial may be over threshold and may instinctively bite when touched.
- If your dog is unable to focus on you and follow your directions, he should not be put into the situation. Keep him away from the area and consult with a dog behavior professional. The use of antianxiety medications along with behavior modification and training may help some dogs that otherwise wouldn't be able to succeed.