Barking is a natural behaviour that all dogs will display in certain situations, such as when faced with an intruder or when they’re excited. It's instinctive and very often helpful, as it can alert you to a problem.
But sometimes barking can become a nuisance, especially when it is incessant and seems to stem from nowhere. It is important to get the barking to a more manageable level so you can identify an actual cause for your attention from just an unprompted outburst of noise.
There are several different types of barking:
If you find your dog is barking incessantly, try not to shout or acknowledge the barking in any way. This will only encourage your dog to bark more, as they are getting the attention they want from you. Consistency is key in this regard, as ignoring the barking sometimes, and other times responding to it, will prompt louder, more persistent barking as your dog learns you will eventually react when pushed to your limit.
What to do:
Besides not yelling and being consistent, there are things you can do to train your dog out of their nuisance barking, and only bark when the situation calls for it.
Try to keep the training sessions short and positive, as you want to maintain your dog’s attention.
Remove the motivation – start by identifying the cause of the barking and removing the trigger. So, if your dog barks at passers-by, close the curtains or move your dog into another room. If your dog barks when he/she is in the garden, bring them indoors. While this isn’t teaching your dog not to bark, it is teaching him that barking leads to being segregated from the rest of the household.
Ignore the barking – reacting to barking only reinforces your dog’s desire to bark, as they learn that barking gets them what they want – your attention. If you stop reacting, in time your dog will learn that barking only leads to them being ignored. You need to be consistent in this approach as otherwise your dog will bark longer and louder to make sure they get your attention this time.
Desensitize – to manage your dog’s barking, you need to get him used to whatever it is that sets him off, so move the stimulus closer while offering treats at the same time. Start at a distance that won’t cause barking, and gradually move closer with the treats. When the stimulus is moved out of sight, stop giving the treats. Your dog will come to realise that good things come only when the stimulus is close by.
Teach the ‘quiet’ command – it may sound counter-intuitive, but if you get your dog barking on command, then you can teach them to be quiet on command too. This involves waiting for your dog to bark and then stopping. Say ‘quiet’ and reward with a treat. You want your dog to understand he is being rewarded for his silence, not his barking, so allow a few seconds before rewarding, and then a few seconds more next time.
Ask for an incompatible behaviour – one that will prevent your dog from barking, such as retrieving a toy or going to lie down on his bed.
Exercise – if your dog is tired, he is going to be quieter, so make sure your dog is getting enough exercise, both mental and physical, to prevent bored or frustrated barking.
If you have any further advice, please comment below and share it with our other readers!
Written by: Hannah