The first question is: “Why is my dog barking?” Is the barking due to boredom? Fear? Separation anxiety? Demand barking? Keep in mind that dogs are going to bark; it’s a way they communicate, so make sure your expectations are realistic. Dog barking that is constant, excessive, fear-based, or aggressive can become a problem and an annoyance. Oftentimes, owners end up using methods to stop barking without addressing the underlying issue, which also fails to address the long-term behavior.
What are the best ways to get your dog to stop barking?
- Try implementing more exercise and mental stimulation into your pup’s routine. Add a walk into their day or hire a professional pet sitter to walk your dog. Try interactive dog puzzles to get their brain working or take them to doggie daycare to burn off some energy. A tired dog is more likely to rest physically and mentally. Barking dogs will excessively vocalize because they are bored. They have figured out barking is something for them to do.
- If you can pinpoint what your dog barks at, begin with counter conditioning and desensitizing. Counter conditioning is a technique used to change the way a dog feels about a stimulus. Desensitization teaches the dog to become less sensitive to that stimulus. Begin with the stimulus at a distance where your dog won’t bark. All dogs have a threshold, so find the threshold first. When the dog sees the stimulus, give high-value treats. If the dog continues to do well, start decreasing the distance of the stimulus and moving closer and closer. If the dog reacts, increase the distance until the dog stops barking. You want your dog to learn that seeing this stimulus means something good happens! If your dog barks at other noises, you can play a desensitizing soundtrack that contains different noises to help desensitize your dog to things like construction sounds, other dogs barking, doorbells, knocking, fireworks, babies crying, people talking, etc. Consistently playing these noises will begin to teach a barking dog that they are just normal, insignificant noises where nothing bad or scary happens.
- Demand barking occurs when a pup wants to get your attention. The key is to reinforce the quiet, calm moments, even if it’s a quick second of silence. Don’t yell (your pup will think you are barking, too, and you’re still giving them some sort of verbal attention), don’t look at them, don’t touch them when they are being noisy. If you do, you reinforce the barking. Ignore the barking for as long as it takes, then highly praise and reinforce when your dog stops barking.
If your dog’s barking is out of control and difficult to manage, consider reaching out to a professional dog trainer.
This guest article was written by dog trainer Rachelle Yates, who is the owner and founder of K9 Revolution, LLC where she specializes in obedience, behavior modification, and training service dogs. Rachelle comes highly recommended from several TDPS families. You can contact Rachelle at (214) 535-7768 or [email protected]