How Do I Stop My Dog From Barking?
Excessive barking is one of the most common issues that we get asked about. This behavior is annoying, obnoxious, and can keep you from enjoying your dog. Your neighbors might take issue with the noise level, and you can’t relax in the evening if your dog is alerting at the window. So how do you stop the behavior of dog barking?
Step One: Find Out The Why
Although it might seem like your pet is barking for no reason, there is always a reason behind the noise. Vocalization can be caused by anxiety, excess energy, aggression, hyperactivity, resource guarding, being territorial, or being scared. Genetics play a big role as well. Some breeds, such as hounds or protection breeds, are more likely to have issues related to barking. Hounds were bred to alert their owner to having found game, and a dog who is protecting his home is most often going to announce himself with a booming bark.
A trainer can help you to determine if your dog is barking due to a genetic trait or due to behavioral issues. Quite often we see barking that has been accidentally reinforced and rewarded. For example, if your dog barks at a squirrel, the squirrel runs away and the dog gets excitement from getting the squirrel to move. If your dog dog barks and you pet her to calm her down, she may perceive the petting as you rewarding the barking behavior.
Step 2: Solve the Root Cause
Let’s say that you have determined that your dog barks because of hyperactivity. The barking behavior needs to be corrected, but not before we have tackled the root cause of the issue. If we correct the noise without showing the dog the right way to act, the issues will crop up somewhere else. We can teach the hyperactive dog to do incompatible obedience behaviors, such as place, heel, and stay.
Now we have more tools in our toolbox. When somebody comes to the house, your dog might normally jump and bark at the guest. Now we are going to change the pattern, and assign your dog to a place command on his bed by the front door. If he decided to bark on the place, we can correct him because he did something that isn’t allowed as part of that behavior. We are also giving him a new “job” that allows him to focus his energy better.
We should also make sure that the hyperactive dog is having his needs met in all areas of life. Make sure that you are balancing physical and mental activity for your dog. You may run with your dog or play fetch a lot, but those activities don’t necessarily do anything for your dog’s mental state. Challenge your dog regularly, and teach obedience skills that allow him to channel his energy in a healthy way.
Step 3: The “Enough” Or ” Quiet” Command
Now we need to teach your dog a command that tells her you want her to be quiet. Dog barking is very reinforcing to your dog, and being quiet usually isn’t. We need to turn the tables and make sure that being quiet is just as much fun to your dog as barking is.
Find a situation where your dog gets excited and is likely to bark, such as when you squeak a favorite toy. Squeak the toy and get your dog interested and wait for her to start to vocalize. Once she starts to bark, say your new quiet command and immediately stop squeaking the toy. Mark the second that your dog stops barking with a “good” or a clicker, and give your dog a treat.
Do several sessions where you repeat this, and then once your dog shuts off quickly, start making it harder. Keep squeaking the ball when your dog is given the command. Increase the level of distraction. Start using the command in other areas where your dog would normally bark.
Step 4: Maintain Your Dog Barking Protocol
Congratulations! You and your dog now have a new skill set to manage barking around the house and out in public. These skills will make your dog much more fun to live with and to take places. It is important that you do not allow these new skills to slip. Most careers require continuing education, which makes sure that you stay on top of your game. It is no different for your dog. Keep up the good work, and establish lifelong habits of good behavior with your pet.
If you need help figuring out why your dog is barking and what protocol would be best in your situation, please do not hesitate to email us with your specific dog’s issues.