Teaching a dog not to bark is difficult because we humans are not very consistent with our feedback. Sometimes we reward our dogs for barking. Sometimes we ignore their barking. And sometimes we get really mad about the barking! How are our dogs going to know what we want? Here are six must-know tactics to change your dog’s barking behavior:
Offer the dog an appropriate alternative.
You probably know you don’t want your dog to bark at the door. But what do you want him to do instead? Lie quietly on his bed? Follow you to the door without barking? Teach your dog an appropriate behavior, and reward him for it. This means starting with small challenges and slow progressing. For example, if your dog goes nuts when someone rings the doorbell, you will want to practice ringing the bell several times per day with a friend or family member. At the sound of the bell, direct your dog to his bed and reward him with something awesome. (Bacon, perhaps?)
Dog owners seem to underestimate the power of preventing bad habits in the first place. You can prevent your dog from barking in the yard by limiting his freedom while in the yard. Rather than letting him run loose, take him out on a leash so you can correct him if necessary. Or, if you know he is likely to bark at the approaching neighbor dog, quickly step in front of your dog to re-direct his attention to you. Ask him to sit, and then reward him with pieces of hamburger or a game of tug.
Work on the dog’s general obedience.
Dogs with solid obedience skills are going to be more respectful and have more overall self-control. Does your dog come when called 99 percent of the time? Probably not. Does he sit and stay when told, even if someone comes to the door? Not likely. Work on your dog’s basic obedience skills and slowly add more and more challenges. Make sure to use an appropriate dog collar for the situation such as a slip collar. If your dog does not respond to basic commands with minimal distractions, how is he ever going to listen when something “exciting” happens?
Reward your dog for being quiet.
If a dog walks by and your dog miraculously remains quiet, tell him what a good boy he is! If the mail carrier arrives, and your dog runs to his bed as rehearsed, treat him like he just won the lottery!
Make sure your dog is not rewarded for barking.
Sometimes we unintentionally reward our dogs for barking in an attempt to get them to be quiet. If your dog barks for attention, make sure you do not pay attention to him until he is quiet. That means you do look at him. You do not touch him or talk to him. If he keeps barking or whining, get up and leave the room. Once he’s quiet, then it’s OK to give him attention.
Other dogs will bark when they are anticipating a walk or a meal. If this is the case with your dog, make sure you do not head out the door or fill his bowl until he is quiet. If needed, ask him to sit or lie down and reward him for that behavior instead. With time, you will want to increase your expectations. For example, you will want your dog to sit quietly for five minutes instead of 10 seconds.
Seek the help of a professional trainer.
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they bark because they are scared and they want something to go away. Sometimes they bark to protect themselves or their owners. If you are not sure why your dog is barking or if you need help with his training, don’t hesitate to call a professional in your area for help.
What are some additional tips to stop a dog from barking?