Dogs use barking to communicate. If you listen to your dog’s bark you will note that he uses different kind of barks to communicate different things. Higher tone barks are usually associated with play, excitement and/or greeting of people or other dogs. Lower tone barks are usually associated with alerting, fear and/or aggression.
It is unreasonable to assume that you can eliminate barking. Dogs bark, it is what they do. Shock collars or bark collars that deliver an electric shock or unpleasant blast of liquid to barking dogs are inhumane because they are punishing a dog for communicating. The kindest way to modify barking is to reduce your dog’s motivation for barking.
Leaving a dog outside unsupervised is a recipe for boredom barking. Being social animals a bored dog is a lonely dog that is seeking interaction. The problem is, if you give the dog attention after he barks you have reinforced the barking! Instead it is much easier to supervise your dog while outside, wait for the dog to empty himself and then play a quick game and head back inside. This sequence of events sets your dog up to hurry up and empty himself quickly and reinforces this by playing a game.
Barking For Attention
‘Watch this!’ your dog says to himself before he starts barking for attention. As the owner’s face reddens with anger, the dog’s tail begins to wag. Eventually the owner barks, ‘quiet!!!!’ and the dog has got the attention he wanted, which works perfectly to maintain the barking behavior. The short demand for quiet even sounds like a bark to the dog, so now he thinks the owner is joining in. What fun!
Barking On Cue
To prevent this scenario, teach your dog to bark on cue by ringing your own doorbell. Most dogs will bark when you ring the door bell. If the dog does not bark when you ring the doorbell, do whatever else prompts barking. When the dog barks, click and treat the dog for barking. Repeat this, but this time say ‘speak’ immediately before you ring the doorbell. Do this 5 times. Now say ‘speak’ in an excited way and hopefully your dog will bark. If not go back to the last step a few more times.
Barking To the Cue ‘Speak’
Now for the fun part!
Cue the dog to ‘speak’. The dog barks and this time after the bark say ‘quiet.’ The dog has no idea what this means, so he will STOP barking and give you a puzzled look. Click and treat! This is what you are really after. You want your dog to bark to alert you something is going on and then once you have checked it out, you can tell the dog to be quiet. From this moment on you will never click and treat your dog for ‘speak’ again, but only for ‘quiet’. Only being quiet gets the reward.
Calm is Quiet
In order to prevent excessive barking you want a calm and relaxed dog. The way to get that is to exercise your dog. Every dog is different. Some dogs need hours of exercise per day while others are happy with 10 minutes of full speed running. Others are happy with a walk around the block. Know how much exercise your dog needs and when he is tuckered out ask him to lay down. Observe your dog for signs of relaxation. When he relaxes, calmly give him a treat. Do not click. This is the one time we don’t want the startling effect of the clicker.
The idea here is to reinforce calm, because a calm dog is more likely to be a quiet dog.
Chew Toys as an Anti-Barking Tool
Another fabulous way to prevent barking is to provide your dog with different chew toys every few days. Just like us, dogs get bored with the same old stuff. Rotate your toys and chew toys by changing them out every few days and you will have done some great training to set the dog up for success.
If your dog barks and/or howls when you are gone, please tell your DogSmith, your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. The behavior modification for separation anxiety is very different than for excessive barking.
If you own a Sheltie or a Terrier you are going to have to learn to live with some barking. Certain dogs are so genetically programmed to bark they even do so in their sleep.
Understanding why your dog is barking will help you set your dog up for success. In all training we want the dog to achieve success not failure. With barking this is especially true. It is also so much easier to prevent excessive barking then it is to fix it after the fact. Don’t take a quiet dog for granted; reinforce ‘quiet’ just like you do other behaviors.
Need help with barking. Contact your Local DogSmith