One of the most common questions dog owners are forced to address is how to train a dog not to bark.
Dogs love to bark. Its a perfectly natural thing for your dog to do, just as its normal for us humans to speak.
Its when our dogs bark excessively that it becomes a problem for all concerned - including our neighbours.
Considering this, our goal isnt to to stop our dogs from barking, but rather how to control the excessive barking.
There are of course situations when we want our dogs to bark (and I guess there are also times when I like my chatty aunty to speak!;)
Training our dogs to stop or at least reduce their barking habit can be a very difficult task.
The first step in modifying this problem is to determine the reason why your dog is barking in the first place. Once youve identified the cause or trigger, you can then plan your training solution.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
- To express their needs (being bossy).
- Some dogs are bred to bark (some terriers and hounds).
- They are staking out their territory.
- To alert other members of their pack (thats you and your family) of impending danger.
- When playing, just through sheer excitement.
- Barking at other animals. Depending on where you are in the world, it could be squirrels or any other small animal.
- If they are isolated.
- Some dogs bark excessively when seperated from their pack (you and your family).
- If they are trapped behind some type of barrier like a fence or window.
- Just for fun!
- To express dominance (puppies normally test you out at some stage with a display of dominance barking).
- They bark because their owners have inadvertently rewarded excessive barking in the past (this is crucial to understand).
- Through boredom or a lack of physical and mental stimulation.
- May feel stressed or uncomfortable for some reason. Things like feeling threatened or if they dont have an appropriate place to sleep can cause excessive barking problems.
- Dogs that havent been properly socialized often become nuisance barkers.
- May be looking for a response or some attention from their pack.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even though it may appear to you that your dog is barking at nothing, this is not necessarily the case. This is due to the fact that your dog has a much more acute sense of hearing, smell and sight than us humans. Your dogs excessive barking is probably being triggered by something.
How To Stop Your Dog From Barking
Ok, now weve sorted out the reason for your dogs barking problem, we can put some training techniques in place to control it.
The most important piece of advice to remember when trying to modify any dog behavioral problem, is to clearly communicate to your dog what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
One of the biggest mistakes us dog owners make is to inadvertently reward our dogs excessive barking. We actually encourage and reinforce the barking problem when we commit these three dog training sins:
- Yell and scream at the dog, this just gives them the attention they were crying out for.
- Let them inside. If your dog is barking his head off outside, then you let him in, this just rewards the barking.
- If your dog is barking and you react by giving him a comforting cuddle or a treat of some sort, you are definately encouraging your dog to bark again. By doing this you are communicating to your dog that you are happy with him. You should be making it clear that his excessive barking is inappropriate.
Right, lets get stuck into some proven techniques to stop your dog from barking. Ive listed the most common reasons why your dog may be barking, and some suggested solutions you can try.
Dog Goes Crazy Every Time The Phone Rings
This is a very common and annoying time for dogs to bark excessively. Try these training techniques:
- Never yell at your dog.
- Get your dog used to the phone ringing, dont make it such a big deal. Ring your home number from your cell phone or get a friend to keep calling you. When the phone rings just sit there, dont say or do a thing. Repeat this process over a few days, your dog will probably continue to bark for a while but will give up before long.
- If you give your dog basic obedience training, behavioral problems such as excessive barking are easily controlled. Your dog looks up to you as their pack leader and is eager to please you in any situation. Teaching the Quiet! or Stop! obedience training command will soon correct nuisance barking problems.
- You may have some success by changing the tone and volume of your ring tone.
Dog Barks When You Are Not Home
Im not going to pretend this type of barking will be easy for you to control, because in reality it is often a difficult and lengthy process.
Always remember that dogs are social creatures, when they are seperated from their pack (you) they can become stressed and frustrated. This type of excessive barking is often caused by seperation anxiety.
- Firstly Id say just use your common sense and get these dog ownership basics right. Keep your dog well exercised (physical and mental) and provide fresh water, chewing toys and a nice comfortable place to sleep. You can also try to block your dogs view of the street or other distractions. Basically, make sure your dog is happy.
- If you know your dog has been barking while you have been away, you must ignore him for a while when you return home. I understand this is difficult for lots of owners, but otherwise your dog believes that his barking is the reason you came back home to him. Just go about your business for a little while when you get home, ignoring your dog. When your dog has settled down, you then initiate contact with him.
- This next method takes time and patience, but can be a very effective way to stop your dog from barking. Its based on that important rule applicable to all training situations. Praise or reward when your dog does something good, create a negative association when he does something bad. Leave the house as you normally would, but just hide somewhere nearby. When your dog starts to bark spray him with water or throw a tin can full of coins or rocks in his direction (this is the negative association). Try to keep out of your dogs sight while doing this if possible. Go and hide again, if he is quiet for a while, go in and reward his good behavior with some praise and maybe a treat. This process may need to be repeated over and over until you have broken the excessive barking habit.
- The above techniques have proven to be successful with my own dogs, but if they dont work for you, maybe you could try a Citronella Collar. Again this method uses the power of negative association. Every time your dog barks, a fine mist of citronella is sprayed into the air. Most dogs hate the smell, and soon realise if they dont bark, the smell isnt there to bother them. If you have more than one dog this method is not a suitable solution.
Dog Barks For Attention Or To Demand Something
This is one excessive barking problem that can be corrected very quickly. - If you establish yourself as the pack leader or alpha dog in your owner-dog relationship, this type of barking problem wont occur. Youll also form a strong bond with your dog based on trust and respect.
- Another effective method you can try to stop this attention barking is simply ignoring your dog. Your dog will probably become frustrated and bark alot initially, but once he realizes that it is not getting him anywhere, he will stop. This training method can be hard on the ears for a while!
Dog Barks At Passers By
Workers like the Postman and Delivery Drivers are constantly being barked at throughout their day.
Your dog perceives these type of people as intruders or a threat to their territory. The dog then barks and every time he barks he is rewarded, as the intruder goes away. Your dog is then very pleased that he has averted this threat, which leads him to do it again and again. His behavior is reinforced and therefore this can be a difficult problem to turn around.
- If possible, you could try to block your dogs vision or access to the area where these people pass by.
- Dog obedience training is the best solution to this type of excessive barking. Once you have your dog properly obedience trained, you will be able to communicate to him that this is unacceptable behavior.
- If your dog consistently barks at a particular person, you may need this person to help modify your dogs behavior. Just say your dog gets really agitated each time the postman arrives. Have a chat to your postman and give him some of your dogs very favorite treats. Each time he delivers to your house, he can also deliver a tasty treat to your dog. In your dogs mind the postman goes from being a threat, to a welcome guest.
How To Train A Dog Not To Bark
In extreme cases of excessive barking, where all else has failed, some people advocate debarking surgery. Ive never needed to go down this path with any of my dogs, and dont think I ever would. But if you have come to the end of the line and think you have run out of options, you could discuss debarking surgery with your Veterinarian.
Good luck in trying to control your dogs excessive barking. If you consistently apply the above training techniques and add a little patience, you should have your dog under control before long.