Other medical problems can also cause excessive barking. For example, a brain disease or a dog who is in chronic pain. Older pets may also develop a form of canine senility that could cause uncontrollable barking. Have your pet checked by a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions as reasons for excessive vocalizations.
Give your puppy a “bark limit.” Maybe he’s allowed to bark three times or five times — until you acknowledge his warning so he knows you can take over for him. After the designated number of barks, praise your puppy — “GOOD bark, GOOD dog, now HUSH,” and give him a treat as you praise. It’s hard for dogs to bark while chewing so this actually serves a dual purpose.
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).
My honest question: What is the point of forcing your dog to not bark at all? Do you really want a silent dog? If so, there are plenty of dogs out there who are born mute (and perhaps deaf) and cannot bark at all, and they need good homes to go to. But for any other dog, playful barking is cute and a fun part of being a dog owner, and dogs also want to be able to get your attention sometimes and there is nothing wrong with that, nor should there ever be.
This is really simple and every single dog owner can teach dog how to be quiet. If not, a trainer can easily come to your home and help you out with that. The great thing about it is that teaching the dog to be quiet actually reinforces the bond between the owner and the animal.
To extinguish the behavior you must completely ignore it. Walk away, or look away and do not speak or give eye contact. Bear in mind that the behavior will temporarily increase before it improves, and you must be persistent and consistent. Try never to enter the house or yard or let your dog inside while your dog is barking, as this can easily reinforce the behavior too.
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You may also be surprising the dog when you’re in your yard because you don’t go out there often. If the dog is startled by you, you may want to try spending some more time in the yard. That way, nothing will seem out of the ordinary for the dog when you’re there.
Any pet parent that has had the misfortune of living with a dog that’s especially talkative, knows how irritating barking dogs can be. I mean, if your dog won’t stop barking at night or drives your neighbors insane with incessant woofs and ruffs, it’s time to do something about it.
Remember, animals don’t engage in any behavior unless they get some reward. Believe it or not, they aren’t barking to annoy you. They’re getting a positive stimulus by engaging in the activity. Your job is to identify it, and then give them an even greater reward to be quiet.
Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing him to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes him bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that he doesn’t bark when he sees it. Feed him lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats!).
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.
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Relieve the boredom. Many pups bark because they’re lonely or bored. Even if the pup has nothing to bark about, talking to himself may be better than listening to lonely silence. Chew toys that reward the puppy’s attention with tasty treats also fill up the mouth — he can’t bark and chew at the same time. Puzzles toys like the Kong Wobbler can be stuffed with peanut butter, or kibble treats that your pup must manipulate to reach the prize.
Before you can fix the problem you must know what’s causing it. Why is your dog barking? Is your dog going crazy because he sees someone out the window? If so, close the blinds. Is your dog barking at passersby when he’s in the yard? If so, bring him in the house. Is your dog barking for attention? If so, ignore your dog until he quiets down. Is your dog barking because he’s bored? If so, go for a run!
Don’t punish your dog if the barking is due to fright or separation anxiety. You may have the opposite effect of increasing his anxiety, and therefore, his barking. A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or Veterinary Behaviorist can give you specific directions for correcting this behavior.
It gives your dog the message that YOU are in charge, not them, and as explained above, it will help them stop worrying about you when you are not around. When you’re ready, you can always call them over to you, on your terms, for love and cuddles.
Try to keep meeting and greeting under control. When you or a family member comes home, ignore your dog for the first couple minutes. When people come to the door, teach your dog to sit and wait until the person comes to him; this will bring control and anticipation to the greeting rather than barking.
Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, is Whole Dog Journal’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. She is also the author of, The Power of Positive Dog Training and Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog.
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