Patrick has been a long-time dog adopter and currently lives with his two dogs – Tarzan and Loki – in Brooklyn, NY. He is a certified dog trainer, writer on all things dogs, animal shelter volunteer, freelancer researcher of animal sciences and aspiring author.
We don’t necessarily want to stop dog barking though, especially when the barking is an alarm alerting us to danger, or perhaps warding off an intruder. But we do want to stop dog barking when we ask them to, and we don’t want them to bark if there is no reason. Some dogs will bark at the slightest noise, disturbance or movement. Often, although barking could be in the breed’s instinct, the owner has unknowingly reinforced the behavior. If we shout at the dog that is barking he may think we are joining in. If we tell him gently to be quiet or give him affection, he may mistakenly think we like it and sees this calm voice as praise for barking.
I have had my 7 year old rescue dog for 4 years, and all of a sudden, she has started barking all night long. How can I get her stop barking, since the only thing that works now is for me to use earplugs at night.
Introduce training early, and start the quiet and place commands as soon as they can understand them. This type of early positive conditioning will help ensure that your dog never becomes a problem barker in the first place.
Once your dog can reliably bark on command, teach him the “quiet” command. In a calm environment with no distractions, tell him to “speak.” When he starts barking, say “quiet” and stick a treat in front of his nose. Praise him for being quiet and give him the treat.
First of all we have to identify WHY your dog is barking, because the solution we use is not always going to be the same. After all, you’d never use the same approach to stop a child who was shouting out for help as a child who was screaming at you for more chocolate, now would you?
It is vital that you determine why your dog barks in the first place, and if barking mostly occurs when your dog is left alone, a behaviour consultation with a qualified pet behaviour counsellor will likely be necessary to address this problem. Similarly, if your dog barks at people or dogs when out and about, or at visitors coming to the home, a simple tip is unlikely make a difference and a comprehensive assessment will be needed to help improve your dog’s behaviour.
As an example, think about barking when left alone. A dog that is very loud when left isn’t making a noise because he or she is being spiteful or wants to get you in trouble with your neighbours. The vocalization is an expression of the dog’s fear, loneliness and sometimes even panic. By strapping a device such as an electric shock collar to an upset dog, you don’t do anything to make them feel safer or more comfortable when left on their own – and what’s more, the pain confirm their fears that being left means horrible things happen to them (painful electric shocks occur every time they bark).
Another thing you can try is recording sounds that trigger the barking and playing these back to your dog – very quietly at first, and gradually increasing the volume – while rewarding them with food. This is a process known as desensitising and counter conditioning.
Eventually your dog will learn to be quiet on command without getting a treat. Even after you’ve reached this stage of training, however, you should still give your dog verbal praise when she stops barking.
You can use the positive interrupt to redirect a frenzy of frustration barking. If you consistently offer high value treats in the presence of frustration-causing stimuli, you can counter-condition your dog to look to you for treats when the cat strolls by (cat = yummy treats) rather than erupt into a barking fit.