Barking is normal. But one of the most common gripes from some owners is about dogs that won’t (or can’t) stop barking. Read on to find out how to stop excessive barking.
Too much barking in one go or consistent barking throughout the day can drive us crazy. It can also lead to complaints from the neighbours, lack of sleep and a raised anxiety of the entire household. There are ways to tackle the problem, but beware: most solutions require time, patience, consistency, and tolerance.
Rules for training
When it comes to training a dog remember the following rules of sensible and responsible dog ownership:
- Don't yell at your dog to be quiet; this will just increase her general excitement, or she may even get scared.
- Keep your training sessions positive, upbeat and gentle. Persistence is the key. You will need to devote some time to her education!
- Be consistent. All of the family must train your dog in the same way, otherwise she will be confused and the training will fail.
Why does my dog bark?
If you want a dog who doesn’t bark at all, then unfortunately you’re hoping for too much. While some dogs are more barky than others (hound dogs and terriers in particular are renowned for using their voices a lot), ultimately barking is natural. Punishing a dog for barking is like punishing a child for speaking. But if your dog’s excessive barking is a sign of a behavioural problem, there are steps you can take to make her more comfortable and thus reduce her need for barking. Firstly, it’s better to address the problem by understanding what causes it in your particular dog.
Dogs may bark in any number of situations, including:
- A visitor or a noise at the front door (e.g. doorbell ringing)
- A stranger on or near the dog’s ‘territory’
- Animals and birds in the garden
- Another dog nearby
- Someone walking past the window or door of the house
- Seeking interaction
Once you have discovered the trigger of the barking and what she is trying to tell you, you can adopt a plan of action that is more effective than simply telling her to be quiet.
You should consider the fact that your dog may also be barking because she is too full of beans. Is her exercise routine appropriate and as outlined by experts in respect of her breed? Once she has been exercised your dog will be less hyperactive and less likely to exhibit signs of boredom and frustration.
How to stop a dog barking when:
1. There’s somebody at the door
This is one example of alarm barking. Your dog is warning you of a potential encroachment of another person onto your territory. Remember, this is an instinctive reaction that we ourselves selected for over thousands of years so that dogs could help us protect our houses. An instinctive behaviour such as this is hard to eradicate but not impossible:
You can instruct your dog to ‘go to bed’ (that’s assuming you have already taught her what that means).
You can also try to take your dog’s mind off the issue. Give her a Kong toy full of treats to keep her busy while you deal with whoever is at the door.
Additionally, try to get your visitors involved. The first thing a lot of people do when they walk into the house of an excited dog is to act excited right back at them.
You may need to ask your friends to ignore your dog until she calms down. Then they can greet her, and she will learn that she’s been rewarded for being quiet.
2. Someone passes by the house
This is another example of alarm barking. The proximity of the person is enough for your dog to be concerned that territory may be lost.
If your dog chooses a window of the house to keep watch, you can mask the bottom part of the window to block out the views that are triggering her.
If your dog stands in the front garden and barks, you should arrange your garden so that she has access to a quieter area (e.g. the backyard), or simply avoid leaving her alone in the garden.
3. She is seeking attention
Sometimes a dog barks because she wants you to focus on her. For example, if you must put your dog in a room on her own for a while, or confine her to a crate against her wishes, she will be unhappy because she feels separated from the pack, and try to “call you” back in for attention.
Ignore her when she begins to bark. It won’t be easy. She may bark for a long time and become more insistent. But you have to keep ignoring her until she stops. This might be annoying. And it might be tempting to tell her to stop. But you mustn’t say or do anything to answer her barking, not even look at her.
When she finally stops and is quiet, then you can call her and give her a treat. Make sure you time it so that you’re treating her for being quiet, not because she ‘asked.’
When she begins to realise that she is rewarded when she stops barking (and that could take a while), gradually lengthen the time after she has stopped barking until you give her another treat.
However, remember that this technique only works if your dog is attention seeking. If your dog is truly uncomfortable when separated from you, then you are dealing with separation anxiety, and this needs to be handled differently.
4. She barks at an inanimate object or another animal
Sometimes dogs will express fear. This may be due to her instinctive behaviour or even a trauma she has suffered previously. You need to desensitise your dog to the object of her fear.
Begin by placing the object as far away as possible and out of sight. Reward her for all the non-barking. If she does start barking, wait until she stops, and then reward her. Then reward her for showing any (positive) interest in the object, e.g. going close to it and trying to explore it. You may consider using this method if your dog tends to bark at other dogs.
One of the best ways to stop your dog barking is to teach her to bark on command. This may seem counter-intuitive but it has been known to work. Once your dog understands that her barking is just another lesson from the top dog, she will be more inclined to know what to do when you tell her not to bark.
Excessive barking is a behaviour that challenges our sensitivity; it is hard to eradicate but with consistent and patient training it is not impossible.
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