While we love our dogs, it can sometimes become a major hassle to get them to stop barking.
This is especially true during the moments when we are trying to concentrate, interact with visiting strangers or just trying to sleep. While a guard dog is an obvious exception to the usual need for controlling a dog’s bark, even a guard dog’s training covers threat assessment-learning what to bark at and what to ignore. It is with this common frustration with dog ownership that this guide has been written.
Below, you will find a lengthy list of solutions to either snap your dog out of a barking fit or keep them from starting one. It should be noted that the longer your dog has exhibited a habit of excessive barking, the longer these techniques may take to “sink in.”
It’s also worth noting that just like with any other pet training regimen, it is important that you avoid yelling at the dog, show consistency in what is rewarded and to keep the training positive-give a treat when the dog avoids barking when he normally would, don’t punish him when he still barks.
Remove the Reason
Maybe there is some behavior or trigger that causes your dog to go off on a barking fit. Figure out what causes it and then remove it from the equation and your dog will lose the opportunity to bark. If the barking is at people passing by a window the dog favors, consider pulling the curtains closed or relocating your dog. If the dog barks at people he sees while tethered to your yard, bring him inside.
Ignore the Barking
By ignoring your dog’s barking you are denying them attention. Treat the dog like he does not exist as long as he continues to bark and he will eventually associate barking with being excluded. Make sure to reward your dog’s understanding of the relationship between barking and attention by giving him a treat whenever he decides to finally stop barking. The hardest aspect of this training method is that it can be a real endurance-tester for some. Do your best to not give in to your frustrations with your dog as the dog will learn that barking long enough is guaranteed to get you to notice him.
In instances where the dog barks because you have confined it in some way, like a travel crate or behind a gate, turn your back to him, completely ignoring the dog until such time that he stops barking. Then turn to face him, praise his understanding and materialize that praise with a treat. As the dog grows to associate silence with treats, extend the length of silence that passes before giving him a treat. Start small by waiting for just a handful of seconds. Then mix up the lengths of time to keep the dog on the defensive.
Desensitize Him to the Trigger
Sometimes a dog will bark because it either fears or distrusts something, or someone, new. Start by placing the dog far enough from the trigger that the he does not begin barking at it when he notices it. Give him plenty of treats and nudge the stimulus closer, anywhere from a few inches to a few feet and continue to reward any abstinence from barking with treats. If the stimulus leaves your dog’s vision, cease giving treats-you want your dog to understand that the stimulus leads to positive things like treats.
If he barks at other dogs, have a fellow dog-owner stand out of view or a fair distance away, far enough that your dog does not go into a barking fit. Have your friend then come into view with her own dog and feed your dog treats until such time that your friend and her dog pass out of view again. Rinse and repeat. Note that this may take days, or even weeks, of training before the dog stops instinctively barking at other dogs.
Teach The Dog to Understand “Quiet.”
This method involves first teaching your dog the command to “speak.” Once he understands that trick, or if he already happens to know it, you can then program him to be quiet. To teach your dog to speak, start by using your chosen command word for the trick, wait for two or three barks and then place a treat before his nose. When he stops speaking to sniff out the treat, reward the dog with praise and the treat. Repeat this until he begins barking upon being commanded to speak.
Once your dog knows how to bark on call, teach him “quiet.” Begin by holding the training in a calm, distraction-free area and order him to speak. Once barking starts, say “quiet” and place a treat before his nose like when you were training him to speak. Once the dog associates the quiet command with silence, reward him with the treat when he stops speaking.
After you have mastered teaching “quiet” in a controlled environment, you can broaden this training to noisier situations. Say someone rings the doorbell, your dog may start barking its head off to warn you of an intruder. You can use such moments to reinforce the training begun in the quiet area, telling the dog to be quiet and prioritizing following up that obedience with treats. With enough diligence, your dog will know to stop barking when you say “quiet,” even when the disruption comes right up to him.
Replace the Behavior
Once your dog begins to bark, order him to do something that inhibits the ability to bark. For example, you might order him to go lie down in bed when someone comes to your doorstep. Once he goes to his bed, open the door until such time that he tries to get up and bark some more; immediately close the door, inserting a quick apology to anyone you may be speaking with whom may not be aware that you are also training a dog to stop barking. Repeat this process until your dog remains at his bed when you open your door. Raise the stakes of training by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is in his bed. Reward your dog if he remains there instead of running to bark at the door.
Keep Him Too Tired to Bark
Ensure that your dog is getting enough daily exercise, not only for his body but also his mind. A tired dog is one that is less likely to resort to barking when it becomes bored or frustrated.
The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on several factors, including his specific breed (or breeds), his age and the general state of his health. Consider taking your dog out for multiple lengthy walks throughout the week, while also playing fetch and giving him some interactive toys to play with for those times when you cannot afford to interact with him directly.
Purchase a Scented Collar
There are two varieties of collar that may work to stop your dog’s barking fits.
- Citronella anti-bark collars audibly release a burst of citronella with the push of a button. Dogs really do not like the taste of citronella and will associate your “shh” and the inescapable exposure to something that tastes nasty with an understanding of when they should keep themselves quiet.
- Anti-stress collars contain soothing herbs and also apply gentle levels of pressure that are just enough to calm a dog that might otherwise bark because it feels nervous or restless.