Dogs Bark! It’s what they do. There are many reasons why dogs bark; they’ve heard something and want to let everyone know, to get your attention or protect their property. Some dogs bark just to hear the sound of their own voices, because they are bored and under-exercised. However, excessive barking, no matter the reason, must be controlled. This can be quite a challenge.
Some of us like the idea that our dogs are going to bark to alert us to possible danger. It makes us feel safe that our dogs can warn us and/or scare a predator away. Most barking is manageable if the dog stops in a timely manner. The problem arises when your dog is barking with no intention of stopping even when asked to be quiet. It can become unbearable when this barking becomes a habit and you are unable to interrupt it.
Why do they Bark?
There are many things that can set a dog off on a barking tangent. Whether it is a door bell ringing, a knock at the door or even a cat outside the window, there is always a reason for the barking, even if it is just to burn off excess energy. You must determine the reason for their barking. If the barking is a result of boredom I suggest you exercise your dog and give them interactive toys to play with. If they are barking out of fear or anxiety please ask a professional dog trainer for help.
Let’s look at a situation where someone is walking by your house and the dog barks to guard his property. He sees the walker and barks. After barking, that scary stranger is now gone. After this occurs multiple times, the dog learns that when he barks at strangers they go away. The dog learns that this is rewarding and empowering and the longer the behavior is allowed to be practiced the harder it will be to change. Now when anyone comes near his property, the dog barks and continues to bark even when the “danger” is gone.
Who Does it Affect?
Not only does barking affect the family of the dog but it also affects everyone around him. If you live in an apartment the people on every side of you can hear it, in a house, your neighbors can hear it. Nobody wants the police being called due to your dog’s barking.
How to Fix It
So now that we know there is a problem, how do we fix it? The quickest way to control a barking dog is to redirect the dog’s attention. If you give him a behavior incompatible with barking, he will stop barking. For example, if your dog is toy motivated, throwing a toy in the other room every time the barking is about to occur will redirect your dog’s attention. He cannot bark and chase his favorite toy at the same time. If you do this every time, eventually when he sees the thing that makes him bark he will immediately look to you to throw the toy instead of bark.
Teaching a dog to be “quiet” on commend is another great way to stop their barking. Start with a hungry food motivated dog and a high value treat like hotdogs or boiled chicken. Find that treat your dog goes crazy for. Use small, pea sized treats so he can eat them quickly - and it leaves him wanting more
Now that you have your treats and a hungry dog, you are ready to start training. We will use an example situation in which a dog barks every time someone comes to the front door. Get a friend or family member to stand at the front door and ring the door bell or knock. The instant the dog starts to bark, say “quiet” and wait. The instant he stops barking, give him that wonderful treat and praise him. Make sure every time he stops barking you give him a treat and a lot of verbal praise.
In order for this to work, you must do it over and over again. When you are tired of doing it, do it 10 more times. In order to change this deeply ingrained habit, you have to reward the “quiet” more than correct the barking. It can get frustrating, but the end result is worth it. You and your dog will both be more relaxed!
If you have more than one dog who barks, you can do the same thing but with a twist. Have someone ring the bell or knock. Say “quiet”, and then only give a treat to the first dog to stop barking. Typically when you get one dog to be quiet the other will follow suit, and all the dogs will be quiet together. Not to mention, the second dog will want the treat you gave the first dog; so next time maybe he will stop barking first.
Reward the Wanted Behavior
No matter how you train this behavior, the most important thing to remember is you must reward the wanted behavior. Dogs will forever bark. It is our job to teach them when it is appropriate and when it is not.