With any problem behavior, it is important to figure out why your dog is doing that particular behavior. Once you can figure out why they are doing what they are doing, you can address the problem behavior. I find that many problem behaviors can be eliminated by making sure dogs receive enough exercise and you are consistent with redirecting their problem behavior, all while setting their environment and your dog up for success.
Why do dogs bark?
- Separation anxiety
- Protection or alert
- Fun or attention seeking
If your dog is barking due to separation anxiety, you will want to address the separation anxiety issue itself, as that is a bigger issue than just barking alone. I am here to help.
If your dog is barking at people or other dogs passing by the house, ‘turn off their tv’ by blocking their view from the window or door. Keep in mind that every time they bark and the person or other dog passes by your house, your dog is getting reinforced for protecting the house. If your dog barks, tell them ‘thank you, I see them’, then redirect them with reinforcing your dog for ‘quiet’ or ‘go settle’. Give them something else to do to keep their mind off the passerby.
Fun or Attention Seeking
If your dog barks at you to get your attention, ignore your dog for doing so. ALWAYS! If sometimes you just get upset and yell ‘quiet’ or ‘shut up’ or physically make movements to them to get them to be quiet, you are giving them attention. Instead, ignore or get up and go into another room, or tell them to ‘go settle’. If they do not go settle, leave the room and close the door behind you. If your dog barks at you often, put them on their success leash (lightweight leash or a ribbon) so you can follow-through with your request to ‘go settle’.
If your dog is barking out of fear of a situation, redirect them quickly by moving to a new location or further away from what they are scared of. Do not force them to move closer to their fear.
Make sure your dog is getting plenty of physical and mental exercise. Mental exercise can include training obedience behaviors, tricks, or simply going out on a smell walk. Make sure your dog has plenty of toys and chewies to keep him or her busy.
If your dog is in a location that is overstimulating to them, either leave the situation or move further away from the situation and watch from a safe distance. Redirect your dog by asking them to do something such as ‘touch’, ‘go settle’, ‘look’, ‘down’, etc. Many times, if we redirect our dogs they will focus on us.
Additional tips to curtail barking
- The first step in conquering your dog’s barking problem is to determine why your dog is barking. If your dog is barking for protection or if she is protecting your territory, one may encourage this behavior.
- Obedience training will help build your relationship with your pet as well as establishing that you are pack leader.
- Exercise your dog. They will sleep instead of bark.
- For undesired barking, call your dog’s name to redirect their attention. If you cannot redirect their attention, have your dog on their success leash in the house to help redirect their attention in this excited state of mind. As soon as your dog stops barking, verbally reinforce him. It is very important to be consistent. If they are allowed to bark sometimes, and not at other times, confusion will result.
- This means it is important to keep your dog in an area they cannot bark when you are not home. Putting them in their crate or a room is a great way to ensure they will not bark when you are gone.
- Place your dog on a leash and practice obedience commands. You are giving the dog attention on your own terms and conditions instead of his or hers. This also helps redirect your dog’s attention from what they are barking at.
- Remember to never go to your dog and shout. Your dog will interpret you coming as a form of reinforcement by receiving your attention (even if it’s negative attention). Go to your dog when they are not barking and reinforce them.
- Train your dog the difference between ‘Quiet’ and ‘Speak’.
- ‘Quiet’ – capture the behavior. When your dog is with you being quiet, say ‘Quiet’ then reinforce your dog. Repeat this several times.
- Put your dog in a situation where you know they’ll bark. Place them on a leash. The moment they start barking say ‘Quiet’. If they stop barking and come to you HAVE A PARTY! Reinforce them heavily with their favorite treats. If they do not stop barking gently pull on their leash to redirect their attention. The moment they stop barking say ‘Quiet’ and reinforce.
- Important note, during this exercise when you initially move to step, more than likely your dog will not stop barking. DO NOT continue to say ‘Quiet’, ‘Quiet’, ‘Quiet’. Say ‘Quiet’ once then wait 2 to 5 seconds if they do not stop barking; gently pull on their leash to redirect their attention. The moment they stop barking say ‘Quiet’.
- The reason for step (1) is because you will be associating the desired behavior of being quiet with your verbal que ‘Quiet’. Always remember to reinforce the desired behavior.
A Note About Bark Collars
There are many types of bark collars out there. These collars range from a spray, vibration, or static correction. Bark collars can be effective; however, I feel it is much more important to figure out why your dog is barking and work with the underlying issue.
Bark collars can become a BIG problem if your dog negatively associates the correction of the collar with the object they are barking at. For example, if your dog is barking at someone passing your house, they then receive a correction from the collar, they can associate that person or dog or hat or stroller or bike with the punishment of the collar. Thus, your dog could become afraid of any or all the above mentioned “scary” things.