Do you have a barking dog on your hands?
As a dog trainer, I find barking problems are one of the main reasons dog owners ask for help … clients want to know how to stop their dog from barking.
Today, I’ll help you get the peace and quiet you want in your household … but first, I’ll talk about the purpose of barking.
Then I’ll cover common reasons a dog barks and provide you with some solutions to curb your dog’s barking.
Why Dogs Bark
Barking is a very normal behavior for dogs.
When a dog barks, he want to communicate with you. Your dog is barking to talk and try to get his message across.
To stop your dog barking, you must first find out WHY he’s barking. What does he want to say or communicate to you?
Barking is a symptom of something else, and that something else is what you need to address.
You don’t just want to stop your dog from barking … the reason why is key.
4 Common Reasons for Barking
Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why dogs bark. Then I’ll give a few suggestions on how to change your dog’s behavior.
1. Demand Barking
Demand barking is when a dog barks at you for something specific.
It might be a demand to …
- Throw a toy
- Go outside
- Get the treat you have in your hand
- To get your attention
For example … your dog brings you his favorite toy, drops it at your feet, then barks at you to throw it.
2. Separation Anxiety
Dogs who bark, howl or whimper when you leave may have a case of separation anxiety … a serious condition that you need to address.
If your dog barks when you leave, he may continue to get more stressed over time and injure himself.
I often think of these dogs like kids at Disneyland. The ones who are so excited about their adventure they run around and scream.
Often these dogs have triggers that get them so wound up … to the point that they can’t control themselves.
It might be time …
- For dinner
- To play fetch
- To go for a walk
4. Anxiety Or Arousal Around People Or Other Dogs
Dogs are emotional and complex creatures.
A dog may bark at people or other dogs for a variety of reasons. These can include …
- Improper socialization as a puppy
- A history of punishment-based training when around other people or dogs
- Bad experiences that caused fear or anxiety
- He may want to warn you of danger
Maybe your dog starts barking when he sees another dog on his walk. Or when a stranger comes to the house, you hear barking or a low grumble from your dog.
How To Train Your Dog To Stop Barking
Remember, the first step to change your dog’s behavior is to identify the reason behind his bark.
Then you can work on training your dog to stop barking. Improvement will come with time and practice.
Solutions For Demand Barking
Demand barking is a learned behavior.
If your dog has learned that barking at you gets him things, then he’ll continue to bark at you to get things.
It’s a pretty simple concept. He’s learned that it works.
When I see demand barking, it tells me the dog isn’t getting everything he needs. If a dog feels the need to ask for attention, he needs more attention … and probably more exercise too!
This doesn’t mean you should give your dog attention when he’s barking. Instead, increase the attention you give your dog and the activities you do with him.
Once you’ve increased the attention, games and activities for your dog … you will then ignore any barking he does to get your attention.
All barking for attention now equals an invisible dog. When he barks at you, don’t look at him, don’t give him anything, don’t yell at him … nothing.
Ignore him 100%.
At first he will likely intensify his barking a bit. He learned in the past that barking works. But you’ve changed the rules. Now it’ll take him a little time to learn the new ones.
Solutions For Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a longer term problem. It requires that you teach your dog new emotions and alleviate his anxiety when he’s left alone.
You don’t want to teach him not to feel, but rather how to feel.
When you leave, you want your dog to feel …
This is not a behavior that you can cure right away. It can take a long time and be a challenge.
If this sounds like your dog, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. Meanwhile, here are a few tips to get you started:
- It’s important that when you come home and leave for the day, you don’t overdo the greeting. If you make a big deal when you come and go … it encourages your dog to think it’s traumatic when you leave him alone. A simple, but warm hello and goodbye with a scratch and smile are best.
- Vary your daily routine. Change the time you get up in the morning, even if it’s only by 15 minutes. And change the sequence of your morning routine so your dog doesn’t expect your departure.
- Have an activity for your dog to do while you’re out. Try to leave him with a filled chew toy or recreational bone. Or hide treats for him to find around the house.
- Teach your dog to enjoy his crate or a specific room while you’re home. Toss that great chew treat inside and let him spend five to ten minutes chewing before you let him out. Increase the duration over time.
- Physical and mental exercise is a great way to get rid of some of your dog’s energy. Your dog is more likely to feel calm and content if he has had ample opportunity to play, run and investigate. But … don’t amp up your dog with a lot of excitement right before a departure. Allow an hour for him to settle back down.
Solutions For Over-Arousal Barking
Once again our invisible dog can come into play during this training.
If your over-excited dog starts barking when you’re about to throw the ball … stop. Stand still. Wait. Don’t say a word. As soon as your dog stops barking, toss the ball.
Your timing needs to be dead on here.
Repeat this every time you play.
If you only practice some of the time, your dog will never get what you expect of him. Over time not barking will be the norm during play.
As he gets better and better, wait one second after he stops barking before you toss the ball. Then increase the wait to two seconds, then three, four, and so on.
To work with over-aroused dogs, you need a lot of patience. It’s definitely time to call upon your inner Zen.
For a lot of dogs, when you put on their leash for a walk can be quite exciting and might elicit some barking. But you can teach your dog to be quiet during this routine. And it’s actually pretty easy.
To start, don’t get your dog all excited about his walk.
Casually pick up his leash. If when you pick up his leash, it causes him to bark … stop in your tracks. Don’t say anything, don’t move.
Wait for him to be silent, and as soon as he is, start to walk towards him with his leash in your hand.
If he starts to bark again – and he likely will – immediately stop again. No words, no yelling. You’ll only walk towards your dog when he is quiet, as soon as he barks, you stop.
Repeat as needed.
It’s a pretty simple process and works really well but … if you want your dog to show patience, you must be patient too.
Solutions For Anxiety Or Arousal Around People Or Other Dogs
If your dog barks at people or other dogs, you need to expose him to these stimuli over time.
“Dog” is an example. You can replace “dog” with a person, or whatever other trigger sets your dog off.
When your dog sees another dog, he needs to be at a distance where he’s calm and can focus on food rewards and praise.
You may need to cross the street or walk him away until the distance allows him to relax. Then, when your dog sees the other dog from this distance, tell him, “YES!” and immediately give him his reward (a yummy one that he doesn’t get all the time).
Continue to do this while the other dog is in sight.
What you want to teach your dog isn’t what to do, but how to feel.
Eventually, when he sees the other dog, he’ll come to expect this wonderful experience … not the emotional reaction he once did.
Over many repetitions … he’ll learn that the dog that once upset him now equals “ooh, good stuff for me.”
In Summary …
A little training can go a long way to curb excess barking.
The barking itself is not the focus of your training … you want to identify and address the cause of his barking.
A lot of patience and a good attitude will get you the results you’re looking for.
Keep in mind, you may have been the one who actually caused your dog’s barking in the first place … so give your dog a little slack and be patient as you teach him new behaviors.