Teaching replacement behaviors may be time consuming, but ultimately it is the best way to encourage desirable behavior. Instead of responding to your dog’s vocal requests to play, for example, teach her to bring her favorite toy to you and set it on the floor.
To be able to tackle problem barking, you must first determine what is causing your dog to bark in the first place. Once you answer the ‘why’, it will be much easier to come up with the ‘how’ – the solution to the problem.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it is a good idea to set up a safe and quiet placed for them when you aren’t home. Choose a room in your home that is away from the front door and with limited distractions from the outside world. This can be a back bedroom, laundry room or spare space.
When training your dog to stop barking, you should set up training exercises rather than waiting for the mailman to ring the doorbell. Begin training by doing the basics like come and stay (check out my other blog posts in the links). Be sure to reward your dog generously so that he knows to pay attention to you. Have a friend or family member do something that would typically trigger dog barking – like knock on the door. See if you can get your dog’s attention. The second he looks or even glances at you, reward him. If you can’t get your dog to stop barking after the trigger, take some steps backward. Wait until you can get your dog to do the simple tasks, like come and stay. Then, have your training partner lightly knock on the door or even tap the door with a finger. If you can get your dog’s attention, reward liberally! This may take several training session, so stick with it! Within a few weeks, you should be able to stop your dog barking!
Certain dog breeds bark more than others. In fact, some types of dogs were actually bred to be barkers. This may be so they could alert people about dangers, protect homes, or even scare prey out of hiding for hunters. On the flip side, the Basenji does not bark at all (though the breed can vocalize in other ways).
Responding to Other Dogs: This is probably a familiar scenario. One dog down the street starts barking, and one by one the rest of your block joins in. It’s like a cacophonous rendition of Row Your Boat.
Still in the low-distraction environment, add moderate distractions – one at a time – and practice the interrupt. Gradually move up to major distractions in the low-distraction environment. If you lose his automatic response at any step, return to the previous step.
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 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.
Once he stops barking, call him to you, praise him, and fulfill his request, as long as it’s reasonable. However, if he is barking for food, do not reward him with food, treats, chews etc. This will simply reinforce begging and instead of barking, he will switch to pawing at you or some other attention getting behavior.
The dog might still be able to sense your presence by hearing or smelling you, so if barking persists, it may be time to introduce yourself to the pup so it knows you’re not a threat. Ask your neighbor if you can meet their dog and make friends. If the dog doesn’t see you as an intruder anymore, it may not feel the need to bark when you’re around.
Try ignoring the barking and waiting till your dog stops. If simply waiting silently doesn’t work, calmly ask them to “sit” or “lie down”. Once they are calm and have stopped barking, praise them with lots of fuss or a treat.
For instance, if every time the neighborhood kid comes to shoot hoops in front of your house, your dog barks at them, try teaching them that every time the kid comes to shoot hoops in front of house it means treats at their mat for chilling out. Can you think of other alternatives that you could train at your house?
Think twice before ignoring. Of course another less preferable way is to ignore the barking and wait for it to go away. In a crate or enclosed area this may work (particularly with a puppy who is learning to settle) but if the dog is outside or in a large area then the barking itself can be self-rewarding. In many instances there are multiple stimuli occurring which will encourage the dog barking. In my opinion, dogs should never be left outside unsupervised or unaccompanied. Go out with your dog and do not allow him to run the fence, race down the hedgerow chasing the cars, or barking at the person walking by. Show your control and confidence in handling these situations and be the leader of your pack. Have him on a leash or a long line so that you can reinforce your commands and maintain control without shouting or becoming agitated.
I’m not sure what to do with my rough collie. I understand her need to herd–we often let people walk ahead of us, just so she’s satisfied. Her issue is barking at anything on wheels, but not cars or bikes. The vacuum cleaner is her enemy. She growls, and snaps and nips. Even if I’m upstairs and she hears it moving, she goes crazy. The other annoying one is if anyone sneezes! She goes nuts! And squirt bottles/mops! Makes cleaning tough!What techniques do you recommend? Right now, I apologize for sneezing, and I put her in the yard while I vacuum, to remove the stimulus.
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).
If your dog is barking due to stress, fear, or anxiety, consult with a qualified professional behavior counselor who uses positive modification methods, and try to manage your dog’s environment to minimize his exposure to stressors while you work on a program to counter-condition and desensitize him.