Barking is a perfectly natural thing for your dog to do, just as it’s normal for us humans to speak. It’s excessive dog barking that becomes a problem. Dogs bark for lots of different reasons, Common types of barking include the following:
- Territorial/protective. Dog alerts us/each other when someone/something is approaching.
- Defensive. Dog barks out of alarm or fear.
- Attention. Dog wants your attention.
- Frustration Dog is confused, frustrated, or stressed.
- Boredom. Dog barks out of separation anxiety or to amuse it’s self.
- Greeting/play. Dogs often bark when greeting people or other animals
(Bear in mind that these are labels, and the reason for your dog’s barking may be due to a combination of any of the above, for example).
Stopping dog barking problems will take a lot of time and hard work. It won’t happen overnight, but with proper Positive Reinforcement techniques patience and consistency, you can stop it. Jamie Muir(Qualified Canine behaviourist, Co Durham), is available for one to one Dog Behaviour Consultations.
determine the reason why the dog is barking in the first place.
It is important to assess the whole situation when dealing with excessive barking as it may be due to an underlying problem, such as stress, boredom, lack of exercise or fear/anxiety etc..which if dealt with could resolve the problem entirely. If you fix the problem, the symptom will probably go away. However, if you only treat the symptom, the problem will most likely manifest itself in another way – one which could be worse! Treat the problem and not the symptom.
Teach and reinforce alternative behaviours
Dogs bark to communicate with us, eg. to let us know they want to come in or go out, there isn’t always necessarily an underlying problem there. Therefore first of all try to work out what your dog is trying to tell you and why. Then you can determine whether its appropriate barking or not. You may want your dog to bark when someone comes to the door for example but for the barking to be limited and stop completely when you invite a guest in. You may even prefer to teach your dog a completely different way to communicate their needs.
If your dog carries on barking after being asked to do something else, or if they are barking for attention, one of the most effective responses is to remove what they want.
For example, your dog alert barks when the postman walks down the garden path. Firstly check to see what they are barking at, thank them for alerting you to the situation, then reassure them that you have it under control. Decide how you want them to react in the future when the postman arrives. You may prefer it if they bark a couple of times to let you know then sit quietly, in this case, interrupt any further barking and cue another, reinforceable behaviour.
Remove the reinforcement for unwanted barking
Barking is a self-reinforcing behavior, so just waiting for the behavior to stop—even when another behavior is reinforced—usually won’t work. Therefore a combination of positive reinforcement and negative punishment is recommended.
If the dog continues to bark after being cued to do something else, or if the dog is barking for attention, one of the most effective responses is to remove what he wants. For example,
- if he wants to get out of the crate, stop moving or back away when he barks, then walk forward when he quiets down.
- If he is barking at you to throw the ball – stand still, completely ignore him while he barks, then reward him with the ball when he is silent
Manage your environment when you’re not training
Manage your environment when you’re not training so that barking isn’t triggered and inadvertently reinforced. For example If your dog barks at people passing the house and your’e not going to be there to control the barking, then keep blinds closed or put the dog in a different room. Bring dogs in that bark outside in the yard.
Ensure that your dog is not being rewarded inadvertently. Some owners in an attempt to calm their dog down, will actually encourage the barking by giving them attention or food.
Never Reward Your Dog’s Barking
- Shouting and screaming at the dog just gives them the attention they were crying out for. Plus your dog will most probably just think you are joining in with all the excitement and bark more.
- Let them inside. If your dog is barking his head off outside, then letting him in, just rewards and therefore reinforces the barking. This also applies to dogs who bark to be taken out for a walk or to make you get up and prepare their dinner!
- If your dog is barking and you react by giving him a comforting cuddle or a treat of some sort, you are definitely encouraging your dog to bark again. By doing this you are communicating to your dog that you are pleased with him. You should be making it clear that his excessive barking is not going to achieve anything for the dog.
Proper dog obedience training is the key to solving any behavioral problems (including stopping your dog from barking), and also to building a strong bond with your dog.