Making sure your dog gets exercise is always a great start. “A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration,” the Humane of the United States suggests.
Dogs make wonderful companions and ideal pets, but sometimes even a good dog can become an incessant barker. There are numerous reasons why dogs bark, and that problematic behaviour is both annoying and, in many places, illegal. The first step to quieting your dog’s barking is to find out why he/she is making so much noise. Once you’ve determined why he/she’s barking, you’ll know what actions to take to get him/her to stop. Learning how to silence your barking dog can help ensure a quiet community and keep you out of trouble with the law.
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.
Remember, barking is natural! It’s an important means of communication for dogs. But sometimes problems can develop. As the pack leader, it’s your job to step in and control excessive barking. Here are my 5 tips to help you stop nuisance barking for good.
When your dog automatically turns his attention to you in response to your cue when confronted with major real-life distractions, you have a valuable tool for interrupting his barking. Be sure you practice occasionally with mild distractions to keep the cue “tuned up”, and remember to thank him and tell him what a wonderful dog he is when he stops barking on your request.
Grumbles and growls can have several meanings. Some dogs grumble and growl in enjoyment at a butt-scratch or body massage. More often, a growl is an important warning – “I don’t like you (or whatever you’re doing); please stop!” (See “Understand Why Your Dog Growls,” October 2005.)
Be patient. It takes a lot of training and practice to get your dog comfortable with prolonged absences. Most of an anxious dog’s undesirable behavior will take place within the first 40 minutes that you’re gone, and it will take many, many training sessions before you can comfortably reach a 40 minute absence.
We just adopted a rescue chihuahua two weeks ago, and while I knew the breed was known for barking, I had no idea what I was getting into. We live in a condo building, and ours tends to bark when he hears noises from outside our unit (which I can’t control). I find myself more sensitive to the barking because I know my upstairs neighbors can hear it, and I don’t want to them to make a formal complaint. I’m going to try #1 and #3 and see how it works (he doesn’t seem to enjoy going outside, so I don’t think exercise is the key for this guy). And now I also realize that saying “no” just made him think we were joining him.
Basically, the point is to redirect their focus away from barking to an activity that you can reward. You can also redirect them to a toy or a game of fetch. After all, it’s tough to bark when engaged in a fun tug session.
“Barking is driven by a whole bunch of things,” says Dr. Kristina Spaulding, a certified applied animal behaviorist from upstate New York, “and while some dogs don’t bark much, they’ll sometimes find other ways to show their emotions or signal that they want something—like pawing at you, jumping, mouthing, stealing things, or finding other ways to get into trouble.”
The positive interrupt is a well-programmed, highly reinforced behavior that allows you to redirect your dog’s attention back to you when she’s doing something inappropriate like barking. Ideally, you want your dog’s response to the “Over here!” cue to be so automatic – classically conditioned – that he doesn’t stop to think whether what he’s doing is more rewarding or interesting than turning his attention toward you and running to you for a treat. He doesn’t think – he just does it, the way your foot automatically hits the brake of your car when you see taillights flash in front of you on the highway.
You don’t want to discourage your dog from playing, but play barking can get annoying at times. If you have more than one dog and they bark when playing together, build a set routine of times and places where it is okay. When you are playing with your dog, encourage the use of toy-based games to decrease the amount of barking.
I know first hand the frustration of dealing with a barking dog. Trust me, I have a Chihuahua! While inappropriate barking can make you want to pull your hair out at times, it’s important to remember that it’s a natural behavior for your pup. Barking is the way he communicates and of course he’s going to feel the need to alert you when an intruder is approaching (by “intruder” I really mean a friendly neighbor)!
If your dog barks when you leave the house (which can be a sign of separation anxiety), set up a safe and quiet place for them away from the front door. This may be a back bedroom, laundry room, or spare space.