How Do I Stop My Dog from Barking?
Excess barking can be a huge problem for many pet owners. It causes endless frustration, anxiety on behalf of guests, and simple annoyance from neighbors. Problem barking is one of the primary reasons that many dogs are given to shelters. Learn how to control a barking dog, how to create a controllable behavior pattern, and how to prevent pets from barking in the future with these tips.
Owners ask themselves, “How do I stop my dog from barking?” and then they typically resort to punishment behaviors, like spraying, hitting, or shouting. Owners need to know that there are plenty of more humane ways to train your dog not to bark. In psychology terms, punishment is never as effective as positive reinforcement. Shouting almost never works; in fact, it often has a negative result, as the dog will often simply think that you’re joining in a barking match. Punishment behaviors in general can be confusing and upsetting to a dog. It doesn’t know how to connect the sound it’s making with the bad things happening to it.
The best tool in your arsenal as an owner is called classical conditioning. But before you learn to use this technique and how to control a barking dog, you should understand why a dog barks in the first place. There are a huge variety of reasons for a dog to bark, and it’s important to tailor your training based on those reasons. Is it out of excitement, greeting, nervousness, fear, separation anxiety, frustration, or happiness? Before you get started, examine when and theorize why the barking happens, and you’ll be far more effective when you’re learning how to control your dogs’ barking. Try to notice if there are any unintentional rewards that happen from the environment. Lastly, before you get started with the training, you’ll want to ask yourself if your dog is getting enough exercise. A lot of pent-up energy and frustration comes through in barking, so try to exercise with your dog more to see if the barking decreases.
Break your dog’s attention with food or play.
When they start barking, you can simply stop them with distractions. This method is particularly good for dogs who simply bark as a greeting. Divert their attention with soft talking, play, or food. This is called positive reinforcement, which works much, much better than punishment. An owner might ask, “How do I stop my dog from barking when I’m reinforcing the barking?” It’s pretty simple. Once you have their attention, make them do something else. You can train a dog to go get something, sit in a certain spot, or give an arriving stranger a paw.
For excited dogs, create a calm environment before moving to the next step.
Sometimes the first step doesn’t work because the dog is already alarmed and in a panicked state. Get close to your dog. For small dogs, hold them. Wait until they’re calm and then try the first step again. Also, it’s essentially important that you, as the owner, always remain calm.
Using the clicker technique, connect barking or not barking with hand gestures.
This is referred to as classical conditioning. First, teach the dog to bark once on your command. Then, you can teach the dog to remain silent on command. This first step may seem counterproductive, but it’s essentially important for the dog to first understand what a bark is. In addition to providing small treats (they should be small because you’ll need a lot of them), also connect the behavior with clickers or a second, small sound stimulus.
Use preventative measures before the bark.
Recognize the bark before it happens. Give them attention, and reward them for not barking. Maybe your dog’s hair stands up, or their ears perk up, or they tense up. Learn to recognize the signs and address it before it starts.
When you’re not there, avoid keeping your dog in areas where they would be tempted to bark.
You can buy an indoor wireless fence to help keep the dog away from the windows or in areas where they’ll remain calm. Shut binds or curtains to help them avoid the temptation.
Continue to use the reward systems and make sure that your whole family is on board.
Stopping these behaviors can be almost worse than if you hadn’t started at all. Make it a family activity, and make sure everyone knows what the hand signals are and how to control your dogs’ barking. You can also teach your dogs more tricks, but make sure that your family doesn’t confuse signals and gestures.
Hire a professional if you really need help!
If you’re really at your wits’ end, hire someone. There’s nothing wrong with hiring pet behavior specialists. It’s not a defeat! They can help recognize your dog’s emotions and behaviors. They can also help train owners on how to proceed.