How To Stop Your Dog’s Barking Problem
The longer your dog has been barking, the longer it is likely to take for him to change his ways. Therefore, if you are committed to making your home, and that of your neighbours, more peaceful, you’re going to need to take the time and energy to reprogram your dog’s behaviour. The first thing you need to do before you start trying to train your dog not to bark is to ascertain why they are barking in the first place. Is something stressing them out? Are they rewarded in some way for barking? Figure this out, then retraining them is likely to be more successful.
A few handy tips to bear in mind before you start:
- Never yell at your dog to be quiet – this just makes them think you’re barking along with them
- Remain positive and upbeat – punishing your dog or not giving rewards will demotivate him
- Be consistent – everyone in your household should know the training methods being employed at stick to them at all times. If training is inconsistent, or only carried out by certain family members, the dog is likely to become confused.
What does your dog get out of barking? There must be some reward or he wouldn’t do it. For example, if he barks when people pass the living room window, close the curtains straightaway or put the dog in another room. If he barks at passers-by when he is in the garden, bring him indoors. You should never leave your dog unsupervised outside for any extended period – this will make them bark out of loneliness and boredom.
Any attention you give your dog when he barks he perceives as good attention. It is his reward for being noisy. Ignore your dog for the entire duration of his barking fit, giving him no input or attention whatsoever. When he finally quiets down, give him a treat. Even if he has just stopped to draw breath. Allow him to make a connection between silence and reward. Remember, that you have to be patient with this step. If your dog barks constantly for an hour, and you get so frustrated that you eventually yell at him to be quiet, he only learns that he will get attention eventually if he barks long enough.
Reward his quietness. If your dog barks when he is confined to his crate, turn your back and ignore him. Once he stops, turn around and praise him, and give him a treat. As he starts to acknowledge that staying quiet earns him a treat, you can lengthen the amount of time he must stay quiet before being rewarded. Start waiting a few seconds, then building it up. Then it becomes a game. It needs to be kept up until the barking behaviour is eliminated altogether and he is happy to be quiet without a treat.
If your dog barks at other dogs, try this. Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight, or far enough away that your dog will not bark at it. As your friend and her dog comes into view, start feeding your dog loads and loads of yummy treats, Stop feeding as soon as your friend and dog disappear from view. Repeat this process multiple times. It may take days or weeks for the behaviour to sink in. However, the idea is that the dog will learn that it is bad to bark, and good not to do so.
If you can teach your dog to bark on command, you are in control. Give your dog the command to ‘speak’, wait for him to bark two or three times, then place a treat in front of him. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, give it to him and praise him. Repeat this until he starts barking as soon as you say ‘speak’. Once your dog has learned to reliably bark on command, you can teach him the ‘quiet’ command. In a calm environment without any distractions, command your dog to ‘speak’. When he starts barking, say ‘quiet’ and stick a treat in front of his nose. Praise him, then give him the treat. Once you’ve taught your dog the ‘quiet’ command in a quiet environment, try increasingly distracting situations until your dog learns to stop barking immediately when told.
There are several ways to retrain your dog to be a quieter, less annoying member of the household. These are just some tried and tested techniques that have been shown to deliver impressive results. You should also make sure that your dog gets plenty of physical and mental stimulation and exercise every single day. When a dog is tired, it is more likely to be well-behaved, and is less likely to bark out of frustration or boredom. Playing interactive games with your dog and ensuring that he is getting enough exercise for his size, age and breed, is absolutely integral to being a good dog mum or dad, and doing the best for your four legged friend.