Dogs bark. It’s a natural part of the way they communicate. They bark because for centuries humans rewarded them for that behavior and even bred it into them. If your goal is a dog that never barks, maybe you are confusing your dog with a cat.
If your dog barks together with lunging, growling, or charging you need to work on the dog’s aggression and fear — and these tips are not for that issue. But if your dog barks at the window, or when he wants something, or at any old noise in your house, then read on.
Here are tips to help you reduce your dog’s barking.
Distract your dog
If your dog has something to do that engages him, he will not get so stimulated by noises or events outside that cause him to bark. A dog playing with you, or chewing a great bone in the kitchen, has better things to do than listen to people outside and bark at them. A lot of dogs get barky between 5 and 8 pm. This is a good time to distract your dog with play.
Teach an Interrupter
An interrupter (ssshhht) is a sound that says to your dog “be quiet, stop what you are doing and focus on me.” Use it interrupt barking at the window or in your car. Start practicing by saying ssshhht and immediately following with an amazing treat. Do this a lot – every day about 15 times in succession for a week. Then, test your dog by saying ssssht and seeing if he looks at you and comes running. If he does, you have established an interrupter and can start working with distractions that might usually cause him to bark.
Teach your dog what you want him to do instead of barking.
If your dog barks at the door teach your dog to go to his mat with a stay when the doorbell rings.
Exercise your dog.
Dogs that are under-exercised and left alone at home with nothing to do are more likely to bark. A dog can’t bark when its asleep.
Ask Yourself: Are you confusing your dog?
Some people want a dog that barks sometimes. That sends a confusing message to the dog. If you’ve got some training skills you can teach the dog a routine, like bark twice then touch my hand and then sit. If you give a good reward at the sit the dog may start minimizing his barking to hurry things up and get his reward.
De-sensitize your dog to the things that make him bark.
With enough practice, a dog that learns to eat a yummy chew or nap in the presence of all kinds of sights or sounds, will learn to ignore them. In fact, if he gets a great chew and sits in his crate every time the gardeners work outside, for example, his feelings about the gardeners’ presence will change. Instead of “there are the scary men with tools I better bark,” the dog will a reaction more like “yay! gardeners! I better go to my crate for a yummy treat.” His heart rate and fear level around gardeners will gradually subside and he will be less likely to bark at them.
Close the curtains and move the dog
If your dog barks at the window when you are not home, denying him access to that window while you are out. Put him in another room so that he cannot get to that window or hear the door where people walk by. Before you start doing this you need to make sure your dog thinks that being in that room is wonderful and not punishment.
Take reward out of barking.
Examine what you do when your dog barks. Do you touch him, talk to him, or say his name in response to his barking? If you do, stop yourself. This is especially helpful if your dog is demand barking. Demand barking is when a dog barks to try to get you to do something. If ignoring does not work from you, try giving the dog a consequence he doesn’t expect: get up and act annoyed (not angry) and leave and close the door so the dog is alone. But be careful. If you don’t leave swiftly, or if you wait too long to come back and your dog starts barking again to get you to come back, you have created a new problem.
New Dog? Be ready.
First impressions matter — ALOT. When you first get your puppy or new dog do NOT make a deal of noticing when the dog barks the first time. It will be especially cute the first time your puppy does this. But, saying its cute and the getting up to see what got the dog barking is going the wrong direction. Your dog needs to see that you don’t care at all about the goings on that are revving him up. He especially needs to see that you ignore him and his response to whatever made him bark. Remember, even yelling at your dog can be rewarding to him because you are giving him attention and barking, too! Dogs love to join each other in barking.
If you have a barking problem that you can’t solve, call me. Sometimes it takes experience to detect why the dog is barking. Different barks mean different things. If you have good training skills already (for example you have introduced your dog to a clicker) you can teach your dog to bark and be quiet on cue!