Try to distinguish between barking that stems from needing to use the bathroom (which is a valid need to vocalize) and barking over every minor desire, such as wanting to come on the couch or be given more attention.
Don’t bark back. Talk to your puppy with your tone of voice and body language — not just the words—to make sure he doesn’t misunderstand. Barking is also a joyful expression. Use a calm voice, or else yelling can make him think you’re joining the chorus, and he barks even louder.
When your dog starts barking, ask him to do something that’s incompatible with barking. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits him from barking, such as lying down in his bed.
In situations such as when the postman or visitors come to the door or a phone rings and your dog becomes very vocal, teaching them to perform a behaviour that simply takes your dog’s mind off barking should do the trick.
It may help to have your dog wear a head halter at times when he’s likely to bark (for example, on walks or in your house). A halter can have a distracting or calming effect and make your dog less likely to bark. Make sure you reward him for not barking. (Important note: For safety reasons, only let your dog wear the halter when you can supervise him.)
Ignore the barking. Attention-seeking or request barking may be the only way your dog knows how to behave. Even after you’ve discontinued your reinforcement of that behavior, it will most likely take a while to break your dog of the habit. In the meantime, it’s best to ignore – rather than punish – this attention-seeking behavior.
Medical problems that lead towards excessive barking are more common in the older dog. Canine senility can lead towards excessive vocalization. You want to take the dog to a vet and simply get him checked out. You might be faced with a case in which you want to deal with the barking and you use all the wrong techniques as the dog simply has a medical problem. He is telling you that he needs help in his very own way. Dogs cannot speak so they will bark. You want to really listen to the dog and you will need to take him to that routine checkup.
One of the most common reasons why a dog barks is that he is bored or wants to play. If you identify boredom as a reason for the barking, the solution is incredibly simple. All that you have to do is use a toy. Hand the dog that favorite toy. Alternatively, take him out for a walk.
When your dog barks at people passing by or at the door, you will allow a limited number of barks, three or four, before giving the command “quiet.” Call your dog to you or go to him and gently hold his muzzle. Repeat the command “quiet” in a calm definitive voice. Release his muzzle and call him to you and ask him to “sit.” Praise and give him a treat if he complies. If he doesn’t, repeat the steps. Continue to give him praise and treats until the people are have passed by completely or come inside your home. Use these same steps when he barks at people from the yard.
Why am I telling you this? Well, barking has to be the most annoying behaviour problem that is suffered by dog owners and neighbours alike. However, Karina in Copenhagen will be the first to tell you that she is glad that her dogs bark. Of course, it helps that she knows what to do to get them to stop barking so they do not become a neighbourhood nuisance. Here’s what she does… Are you ready?
Never use a muzzle to keep your dog quiet for long periods of time or when you’re not actively supervising him. Dogs can’t eat, drink or pant to cool themselves while wearing muzzles, so making your dog wear one for long periods of time would be inhumane.
First, get your dog excited by ringing the doorbell, knocking on a wall or whatever you know will start him barking. Say your command word, such as ‘speak’ and pair it with a treat. When your dog is consistently barking when you say ‘speak’, you can then say ‘quiet’ and give a treat. Your dog will have to stop barking to get the treat.
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.
While I wouldn’t reward a dog barking to boss you into getting their dinner, I would respond to an empty water bowl or a request to go to the bathroom. Part of being a good dog owner is learning to understand dog’s barks, and to respond to genuine needs.
If your dog barks a lot when left and you are unable to resolve this by following our tips, you are likely to need help from a qualified dog behaviourist to address the problem. You can find one by contacting your vet, or on the Animal Behaviour and Training Council website.