One reason that it’s so easy to live with dogs is that they’re very expressive. They find a way to let us know their needs. They often do this by barking or whining. Indeed, we find it desirable when they bark to ask to go outside to eliminate or to request that their water bowl be filled. It’s less attractive, however, when your dog barks to demand anything and everything, needed or not! This pattern of barking does not happen by accident. A demanding, noisy dog has been taught to be this way, usually not on purpose! To get your dog to stop, you’ll need to consistently not reward him for barking. Don’t try to figure out exactly why he’s barking. Ignore him instead. Treatment for this kind of barking can be tough because, most of the time, pet parents unwittingly reinforce the behavior—sometimes just with eye contact, touching, scolding or talking to their dogs. To dogs, all of these human behaviors can count as rewarding attention. Try to use crystal-clear body language to tell your dog that his attention-seeking barking is going to fail. For example, when your dog starts to bark for attention, you can stare at the ceiling, turn away from your dog or walk out of the room. The instant your dog stops barking, ask him to sit and then give him what he wants, whether that’s attention, play, treats, to go outside or to come in.
He continues, “As I have always stated, the completion of the bad behavior is a reward. So you letting your dog play out actions like barking is actually reinforcing it to your dog. It also makes sense that the longer your dog has had this problem, quite often the more difficult it will be to correct.”
If you struggle to figure out why your dog is barking and the above advice has not helped, don’t panic. The reasons why dogs bark are not always as straightforward as we would like, and qualified pet behaviourists will be able to help you. Ask your vet or visit the Animal Behaviour and Training Council website to find a qualified local behaviourist who can help you and your pet.
Very often we push things too fast and do realise that our dogs are struggling with the speed that we are progressing. Then things fall apart and we all get stressed. By slowing the training down, dogs relax more and start to succeed!
You might want to ask if anonymity is an option when you file the report. In some cases, this may not be an issue for you, especially if it’s plain-as-day that you’re the one pointing the finger thanks to previous attempts. However, if you have various upset neighbors, maintaining anonymity may be useful to prevent retaliation of any sort.
Try a sonic training system. This uses more advanced technology to silence a dog’s barking, but it’s the same idea as the whistle. Again, the results are mixed; these seem to work better for some dogs than others. If you’re at the end of your rope, it might be worth the expensive price tag to give it a try.
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.
Consider crate training. Crate training’s success varies considerably from one dog to another. Some dogs are frightened by having to be left in a crate, while others see the crate as their own safe space and an assurance that someone will be home at some point to open the crate.
No matter why your dog is barking, some general training will help keep his mind occupied and wear him out. A tired dog is a happy dog. Regular walks in the morning can help, even just a 15 minute walk around the block is better than nothing. Two walks a day would be perfect. If you work long hours, consider a dog walker, doggy daycare, a play-date with a friend’s dog or asking a someone to visit in the middle of the day.
Playfulness/Excitement: This type of barking is especially common in puppies and young dogs. Many dogs will bark while playing with people or other dogs. Even the sound of the bark tends to sound upbeat and possibly musical. Some dogs will bark excitedly when they know they are about to go for a walk or car ride.
Excessive barking is often the result of pent-up energy. If this is the case, the solution is simple: release that energy in more productive ways. Does your dog receive a daily walk? Can you make the walk more challenging with a bicycle, a backpack, or by walking on an incline? Can you provide more mental challenges, such as herding, agility training, or simple obedience games? There are many, many ways to increase the challenges in your dog’s life. Find one that you enjoy that your dog can participate in safely.