Once you can open the door and your dog will stay in his spot, have someone actually come in the door. Of course your dog will break from the spot at first, but with time and practice, he’ll learn to stay in his spot when the door opens and guests come in.
Besides boredom and frustration, one of the major reasons dogs bark is territorial. To you, it’s just the mailman, but to your dog, it’s a vicious robber there to attack their master. You can’t stop receiving your mail, but there are lots of things you can do to desensitize your pet and make your home a haven away from negative external stimulus.
As you extend the amount of time that you’re out of your dog’s sight or behind closed doors, you should incorporate counterconditioning methods like a puzzle toy to keep her distracted. Try adding this component once you’re behind closed doors or out the back door for at least 10 to 20 seconds at a time.
Sounds like the dog has separation anxiety and barks when you leave him alone. If you don’t have a lot of time to train your dog, consider putting him in a professional training program and/or a doggie daycare program.
What if your dog completely ignores you when you try to redirect them with a command? With some dogs, you can utilize a strange noise to help them refocus on you. Make sure the noise isn’t your voice, but an outside source.
I have a Sibercaan (Native American Indian Dog/Canaan Dog hybrid), and only stubborn persistence works. If I stop, he’ll lean into the harness continually and won’t back off. One time I tried to out wait him, but after 45 minutes I had to literally lift him off his front feet to turn him around. He has snapped a chest lead, ‘large breed’ leashes, so I made a harness by serging 2″ five ton rigging strap and a leash made of 7200lb test mooring line, with a harness handle. Basically I just lift him like luggage and redirect him before I put him back down. Although he’s disappointed, it doesn’t hurt him because of the wide straps, and letting a dog strain at a standstill is terrible for their hips and paws. Manual lift and redirect is safer and faster. Granted, this is only as effective as your ability to lift the dog. He’s 110 pounds currently with 20 or so more to go, so for most people he would easily pull one off their feet in a linear tug of war. When I say lift,I’m just taking the weight off his front paws, so when he pushes with his hind paws,he just stands up, and it’s actually pretty easy to redirect him this way. I’ve had success with my neighbor’s mastiff at 178 pounds with this method, and it works with my sister’s behemoth Newfoundland retriever at 190 pounds. The biggest thing is to be patient, his breed is renowned as sled pullers, so the stop and wait thing is more like a challenge to him. If you teach them that no matter how strong they are you can still direct them in a calm manner, they generally become cooperative. Hopefully this will help some other large breed owners.
Before we get into how to eliminate excessive yapping, remember that you don’t want to correct all barking. After all, if someone knocks at your front door when you’re not home, wouldn’t you rather your dog bark to deter a break in?
I think I’ll start using “thank you” with our German Shepherd, Thor. He is a big talker and like Ginger, he has different ‘words’ for different things. Whining for ‘I’m lonely’, a higher pitched bark for ‘pay attention to me/play with me’ and his Big Loud Alert/Protection bark.
Try to look at things from the dog’s perspective when the dog is outside. See if there is anything outside in particular he is barking at, such as rabbits, squirrel, another dog, something else you think the dog might be barking at. Then think about whether there is a way to reduce this trigger.
Once your dog is listening to you more, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This means your dog has to listen to you at all times because he never knows when you are going to turn or where you are going to go next. Instead of turning away from him when you give the let’s go cue, reverse direction by turning towards him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure of eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention. Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel walking close to you, the more he will chose to do so.
As your dog learns that silence is rewarded with treats and barking is ignored, you’ll need to gradually extend the period of time that your dog must be quiet before receiving a treat. For example, once she has passed the initial stages of getting a treat after the barking has stopped, you may want to prolong the required quiet time by a few seconds each day and work your way up to a minute or two before rewarding her.
Attention seeking: Never reward barking. If your dog barks when he wants water, and you fill the dish, you’ve taught him to bark to get what he wants. If he barks to go outside, it’s the same. So teach him to ring a bell you tied to the door handle to go out. Bang the water dish before filling it, and maybe he’ll start pushing it with his nose to make the same noise. Find ways for your dog to communicate without barking.
Dogs are social animals, so it’s natural for them to bark when they hear others barking. You can discourage this tendency by keeping your dog indoors when other dogs are barking, by playing music to drown out the sound of other dogs, and by distracting your dog with treats or play when other dogs bark (whether it’s in real life or on TV).
Work on pre-departure anxiety by exposing your dog to your various departure cues, like putting on a coat or picking up/jingling your keys. Try engaging in these behaviors at various times throughout the day without actually leaving the house.
Try to agree on a concrete solution. Rather than expecting your neighbor to put a stop to all barking, it might be more feasible to agree on a practical solution that works for both of you. Here are a few solutions that might apply; you can adapt them to your situation as necessary:
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.