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Dear Cesar,

I have an American Staffordshire terrier named Coach who is almost four years old. We have an extreme problem with Coach barking through the fence at our surrounding neighbors and their dogs.

Then, when we go outside to get him or tell him to stop, he won’t come to us and will take off running in the opposite direction. It is very frustrating. He does the same thing if we have company over and he is on the back patio. If he sees us inside with people, he starts barking and jumping up on the door. He also will jump all over people when he sees them. It can be exhausting. Is there something we can do to fix this? We must be doing something wrong. I would appreciate your help.

— Melissa Pickard

Dear Melissa,

First of all, I appreciate the last part of your question, when you admit that you think you’re doing something wrong. It shows that you’re willing to recognize and change your own behavior.

It’s natural for dogs to bark to let others know “This is my territory.” But it’s a very particular way of barking. It isn’t excessive. It won’t annoy you. The kind of barking you are describing says to me that your dog is looking elsewhere for fulfillment. Barking through the fence is his way of fulfilling himself with excitement outside his house, because in his house, he is not getting what he’s looking for. Why is the dog so excited? Well, he’s probably lacking in exercise. And I’m not talking about backyard exercise; I’m talking about a nice, long walk. Why doesn’t he come when you call? You’re not fulfilling his needs — the neighbors outside with their dogs are! If you don’t engage him physically and psychologically every day, his excitement will take over. His needs at that moment are coming from a predator point of view, not a follower point of view.

I can’t see how you’ve been dealing with the problem, so I don’t know if you’re yelling, or if you’re consistent in the rules, boundaries, and limitations, and I don’t know if everybody in the household is consistent with the dog. There are many details I don’t know. A lot of people say they watch the show all the time, but sometimes they’re not seeing themselves in it. That’s why it’s very important to hire a professional who understands common sense and can work with you in person.

Staffordshire terriers have a lot of energy. It’s important that you find somebody who can come and help you master the walk one on one. Then, once you’re fulfilling the dog with the walk, you can move on to “sit,” “stay,” “relax,” and other commands. And Melissa, I think you’ll find that when you start really fulfilling your dog’s needs, he will come automatically to you. It’s the pack leader’s law of gravity!

Stay calm and assertive,
Cesar Millan

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