Today Suzy, The Dog Training Lady, our resident pet trainer, is sharing with us some tips on How to Train Your Dog Not to Bark when it isn’t necessary. Enjoy!
Being a doggie parent, we experience a sense of protection when our dogs bark. Our dogs bark when there is a person on your property or there is a knock at the door, or they are giving you some sort of warning. When is it okay for them to bark or not to bark?
The problem starts when the barking doesn’t stop, or your dog is barking at everything, from the person riding their bike, to the mailperson, and even the occasion passer-by.
So how do we get our pooches to stop the incessant barking?
There is not a simple answer to reduce excessive barking.
First, we need to determine is WHY our dog is barking. There can be a variety of reasons that a dog will bark, and sometimes the cause is a behavioral issue.
They don’t bark just to tick off you or your neighbors, that’s a vengeful trait, and one that humans possess not dogs. Dog don’t plan revenge, so we can cross that off the list right now. I know many people have said “that dog is just trying to drive me crazy”. That is not the case.
Barking, howling, growling and whining is how dogs communicate, just as we speak to each other in different tones, dogs are trying to tell you something. If you listen very closely to your dogs barks and other sounds you will begin to hear a pattern and identify his or her reason for barking, and what they are trying to communicate to you.
My dog Spike had an identifiable bark for a person, one for when he wanted to go outside, and one if another dog was near his house.
Each bark had a different tone. It may take a while, but you can learn to pick up on these differences, and before you know it, you will be able to speak “dog”.
The other thing to keep in mind is the breed of your dog. Some breeds for example: breeds belonging to the terrier group have the genetics to be a “Sir Barks-A-Lot”.
Let’s take a look at some reasons that dogs bark:
Excessive Confinement or Inappropriate Shelter
Loud or Unexpected Noises
Play Time or Excitement
Alert or Warning
These are the most common, but there can be other reasons. In order to resolve the barking issue you have to determine the cause.
The problem at hand is – what to do when the barking won’t stop.
We could write a complete book on all the barking, and how to control each individual reason, but for the sake of this post we will review some general practices to work on. Keep in mind two very important things:
- Don’t YELL at your dog – this is human barking.
- Have patience – this will take time, and a lot of patience. Barking is something you want them to do at the appropriate time, but still want it controlled at inappropriate times.
Here are a few general practices to help control the inappropriate barking.
Select a one-word command e.g., “Enough” or “Okay” for the actions you really want. Use your chosen word all the time, use an even tone of voice always, and be sure that everyone in the house uses the same word in the same manner. Consistency is key for correcting excessive barking behavior.
Call your dog and, have him or her lie down and stay (canines do not bark as much when they are in a down position), we are well on the way to fixing a barking issue.
Always reward your pet for great behavior. Select a unique treat; what I like to call a premium reward, little pieces or cooked chicken, turkey, or hot dog will certainly help your dog or puppy understand that he or she is really doing something good. As time goes on, and the barking begins to improve you will not provide a treat every time, just saying “Good Dog” and a scratch behind the ear will work just as well. Dog’s love being loved on!
In many instances, yelling “No” is just going to make it worse, as I previously mentioned this is the equivalent of human barking.
If he or she is barking due to a loud noise, do not hug your pet, or talk soothingly, otherwise your playing right into your dog’s barking.
When you do this, you are actually unwittingly rewarding the barking behavior. It also helps if you don’t react to the sound. I know this is easier said than done.
I live in the lightening state, Florida, and we can have some serious lightening storms here. It took me a while to train myself not to react to the lightening. When my dogs, and cats saw that I was not bothered by it, they stopped reacting to it.
Be patient with your dog, as well as yourself. This will not be an overnight transformation. Habits take a great deal of time to break, especially this one, excessive barking is tricky. You have more than likely been accepting the behavior, or yelling at the dog to stop, so we are starting from square one here.
This is un-training, this is not like teaching your puppy to sit. This is reversing something that has been going on for a while. If you are starting with a young puppy, you are actually very fortunate; and you need to start this training right away. Take it gradually, one step at a time. The opportunity to properly change this habit will be gone if you become upset with your puppy.
Do not hesitate to ask a specialist. Dog Trainers, behaviorists, as well as, your vet could offer you important guidance. Having them witness your dog’s barking episodes could provide them useful hints to help you fix the barking issue. They will be able to identify what type of barking it is, and if it is a behavioral issue or something else.
Controlled training – try to established control scenarios to use as training sessions.
Use 5 to 10 minute sessions of controlled exposure to a particular barking issue.
An example of this would be a dog that will not stop barking when someone knocks on the door. Have someone (another household member, or ask a friend) to help you with this.
Have them come knock on the door, your dog starts barking, don’t get up, and answer the door immediately. Treat it as a non-issue, like you didn’t even hear it.
Call your dog and ask for a down, and stay, or a sit, and stay. If he or she is still barking, use your selected word “Enough”, when the barking stops, answer the door.
Only do this a couple of time per session, but be consistent with this training sessions, until you are satisfied that your pet will bark once or twice and stop.
Be sure to socialize your dog. Socializing your dog, and taking them to different places gives them exposure to different things, things they may otherwise bark at if they didn’t experience it.
Think of the training police dogs must go through, can you imagine a dog that doesn’t bark when a gunshot goes off. This is accomplished through exposure.
So exposing your dog to as many things as possible, drop that metal pot on the floor once in a while, it’s a loud noise, you’ll just pick it up, and you pup will see it was no big deal. If they keep barking, use your word “Enough” is a calm and even tone of voice.
I know the question is out there, but please, please, don’t use a shock collar, if it has gotten that extreme, spend the money on a trainer, not a shock collar.
If it has gotten to the point that you are going to surrender your dog because your neighbors have complained to the homeowners association about the barking, and you have been given a difficult choice. Please get a trainer or behaviorist right away. Shock collars are expensive, so use the money, and get someone that can help you train your dog in a positive, and loving manner.
After all our dogs are meant to be our alert system, it’s really their job. Believe me our dog’s like having a job to do, it makes them part of the family, well, besides loving on everybody. 🙂
We need them to bark; it is up to us to teach them when it is okay to bark and when it’s not.
I hope in some way I was able to help you get started in the right direction. If you have specific questions, I am always happy to help.
I would like to thank Rachel, and Rooney for allowing me to guest post for MyKidHasPaws.org it’s always a lot of fun!
Until Next Time,
Suzanne Dean, ABCDT
I want to thank Suzy for writing another amazing behavior column for us. Suzy has been contributing to our blog for a long time, and we wouldn’t be able to address behavioral issues without her, so please show her some love by going to her website.
As always, if you have any behavioral issues you would like us to write about, please leave a comment below.