Stop Your Dog From Barking Now
Wow wee, this is a tough one! But don’t worry folks, I have lots of tips for your barking dog. 🙂
Barking is a symptom and we need to find the cause to effectively address this behavior. First, it helps to understand why your dog is barking so we can manage and redirect this behavior. Many clients will correct their dogs whenever they are barking instead of understanding what is causing them to bark. This will confuse you and your dog quickly, which leads to frustration.
Now, some dogs are more vocal than others. I’m hesitant to label a specific breed of dog as more vocal than others. I’m just not a fan of labels. Think about a litter of puppies: some are quiet and others are vocal (Sobek, my Rottie, is super vocal and has been since he was 2 days old). Now, think of your family. We all have a talker in the group. In my family, it’s me! I’m much more vocal than my sister and our family video confirms it every holiday!
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Vocalizing (aka barking), for some, is a reinforcing way to release stress and tension. Again, let’s think in human terms. Some folks can deal with stress by bottling it up inside and never speak a word about it. Others must talk it out with anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. Managing a dog and person, both who vocalize due to stress is a tough one, but it can be managed.
Managing vs. Fixing Behaviors
Note that I mention managing an inappropriate behavior instead of saying fixing an issue. With my past experience, I don’t think we can 100% fix an issue with a living being. You can fix a car or TV, but living beings have learned behaviors that will pop up no matter how much you try to fix them. So, when I say manage, we can manage 99.9% of the time, which works for me! Example: I’m terrified of crickets. You can manage my dislike by feeding me donuts when around a cricket, but if I’m shopping at Macy’s (odd place for a cricket) and a cricket suddenly jumps on me, you better believe I will react! My fear of crickets is a learned behavior. Okay, I’ll contain my nerdy side now — back to managing barking.
3 Steps to Stop a Barking Dog
- Identify the trigger. What is causing your dog to bark in that environment?
- Choose an incompatible behavior to teach your dog (e.g. quiet, look at you or touch).
- Reward the incompatible behavior that prevents your dog from barking.
Dog Training Tips
- Notice I said in that environment, which means the very moment that caused your dog to bark. Was it another dog that approached, a loud sound, a person walking up to your dog, doorbell ringing, umbrella opening, your dog noticing a strange object, or was he standing too close to another dog?
- If your dog is a stress barker, find out what triggers the stress. Does it happen when you ignore him (attention-seeking behaviors, frustration due to confusion during a training session, an approaching dog, etc.)? Now address the stress and reward the dog when he is quiet (if he exhibited attention-seeking behavior). Take a step back in your training session and reward a simple behavior or walk the opposite way of an approaching dog.
- Ask your dog to perform the incompatible behavior before he begins barking. If he begins barking, it’s too late. I say, “The horse is already out of the barn.” Back up until your dog quiets and try again. Timing is key!
- If your dog barks, will not take a treat, or stop barking, back up from the trigger. In the dog training world, we say your dog is over threshold.
- You need a really good reward. Barking is self rewarding, especially for stress barkers. Break out the really good stuff (cubed lunchmeat!).
- At first, keep your dog on a leash so you have some control to move away from the trigger.
- Manage the environment so your dog does not practice the behavior. This means, don’t let him bark at the trigger as this will only strengthen that behavior (think many repetitions of practice to strengthen muscles).
Example: Your dog barks at other dogs through the window.
- Close the curtains when you are not around. We don’t want the dog to practice this behavior and it getting stronger.
- Leash your dog and click/treat an incompatible behavior, such as quiet. Yes, he needs to breathe in between barks so reward the nanosecond of quiet. Or ask him to look at you and reward that behavior.
- If your dog will not focus on you, then back up from the window and try again.
- Practice this several times with fabulous treats.
- Keep curtains closed until your dog has more success with the incompatible behavior instead of barking at the dogs.
- Trust me, your dog will learn not to bark at other dogs through the window. 🙂
What Not to Do
- Screaming, yelling and telling him to stop it right now. Basically, you are joining in with the barking party. 🙂
- Penny cans, spray bottles and leash corrections. While it may seem to stop the behavior, it more or less suppresses it in my opinion. And I’ve seen it time and time again, corrections scare the dog and the dog thinks the trigger caused it. Now you have a dog that is scared of other dogs, people, etc. Punishment may work, but you really need to know what you are doing to prevent fallout behaviors. Make your mistakes with positive reinforcement, as it’s much more forgivable and it works!
Barking dogs of the world, unite! Share what causes your dog to bark in the comments below.