Dogs bark, and whether it’s yips, yaps, or woofs, there’s no getting away from it – unless you have a Shiba! They bark for all sorts of reasons, a warning, an invite to play, boredom, or just to be chatty, but sometimes it can become an annoying habit.
Often we inadvertently train dogs to bark by giving them attention when they do – even if it’s to tell them “No!”. To a dog, that’s still a form of attention reward. So …
HOW DO WE TRAIN OUR BEST FRIENDS TO STOP BARKING?
Let’s start by saying that at TopReview, we don’t advocate debarking, the use of shock collars, or any other methods widely considered to be inhumane. We consider positive reinforcement to be the best method of training your dog, and all our dogs are successfully trained this way.
ESTABLISH WHY YOUR DOG IS BARKING
Dogs bark for a number of reasons, including:
- Excitement – a perfectly normal way for our dog’s to express themselves. Unless it becomes excessive, this isn’t really a cause for worry
- Boredom – this can be a relatively easy problem to solve
- Warning – often this can be a warning that someone has entered the dog’s home territory, such as the postman, or the dog wishes to warn those around him that he perceives a threat. Generally, this can be dealt with quite easily
- Anxiety – if your dog is expressing anxiety, you may need the help of a qualified behaviorist that uses positive training methods
- Aggression – Aggressive dogs require very careful handling, and we would recommend calling your local qualified behaviorist. Trying to deal with this yourself can result in the problem becoming even more serious
By analyzing the situation, and watching your dog’s body language you should be able to tell why he is barking. Generally the deeper the bark, especially if it begins with a growl, the more serious the reason, whilst the opposite is also nearly always the case. An excited dog will often yip, looking happy and eager, whereas a warning bark tends to be a low, deep rumbling bark, accompanied by an alert, stiff posture. Sometimes, however, a lonely or bored, dog’s bark can get higher as they build up to howl.
Howling within a wolf pack is often a means of communication between pack members, and is especially effective over the vast territories wolves inhabit. If your pet dog is feeling the need for companionship, it’s perfectly natural, then, for him to howl.
Each reason for your dog’s barking requires different, but still positive, training methods.
PREVENTION IS EASIER THAN CURE
As with all things, it’s far easier to prevent any barking habits forming before they become a problem, so let’s take individual situations and have a closer look.
If your dog gets overexcited, for example when you pick up his leash, firstly keep your own behavior calm and steady, and if he starts barking and getting carried away, pop the leash back on the peg and sit down. Wait for him to calm, and try again. Be patient as a lesson learned now will make all the difference later on.
If your dog, once you have the leash attached, becomes excited again, then if indoors, drop the leash and sit down, giving him time to settle. If the same thing happens when you leave the house for your walk, quietly go back inside, and so on. Your pup will soon learn that getting overexcited doesn’t achieve anything.
A bored dog can rapidly become really annoying, so the trick is to keep him busy. Longer walks are a great idea, or split your walks up throughout the day if possible (always remember the golden rule with young pups though – five minutes walk for every month of age. Any more than this, especially with bigger breeds, and you risk causing bone and joint issues). Chew toys are good, and the toys that dispense treats are even better, as the dog has to work out how to gain a reward.
If your dog gets bored waiting for you to come home, you could try leaving the TV on while you’re out. Put it on a fairly neutral channel, so there’s nothing too loud or exciting for him. This works well if the TV is wall mounted, allowing it to be completely safe both for, and from, Rover.
Another thing we’ve found works really well is to incorporate a short ten-minute training session into your day. Teaching your dog to do tricks, or sniff out treats that you’ve hidden, will keep his brain working, which in turn leads to a tired pup. If you can prevent boredom developing, you not only avoid unnecessary barking, but minimize the risk of having your furniture, or best pair of shoes, chewed.
A pup that uses his brain in a positive way is a happy pup.
HOW TO STOP YOUR DOG BARKING
Often raising your voice to tell your dog to stop barking is counterproductive, and the dog thinks that either you’re ‘barking’ too, or it raises their anxiety or excitement levels and creates more noise. If the barking has already become established, the methods to prevent the problem arising in the first place can still be highly effective. However, there are some other tricks in your anti-barking arsenal.
Strange as it may sound, by teaching your dog to bark on command, you can prevent him barking at inopportune times.
Training your dog to bark on command
- When your dog is in the act of barking, give him plenty of praise – yup, you read that right! Don’t get all squeaky and excited, but praise him nonetheless, giving him a verbal command and a hand signal at the same time. You want your dog to associate the command and hand signal with barking and receiving a ‘good boy’
- When he understands the command and signal, you can start using it at other times to encourage him to bark, remembering to praise the behavior
- When your dog stops barking voluntarily, give him even more praise, accompanied by a different command and hand signal, so that becomes associated with being quiet
- You will probably need to practice the bark and quiet training over several days so they become ingrained
- Now, when your dog barks at the door, you can use the command and signal for quiet, and he should respond by ceasing to bark
This is a great video that uses positive reinforcement to teach a puppy how to stop barking.