Dogs bark for a number of reasons, so it is important to sit back and try to determine why your dog is barking. Some dogs bark for attention, out of boredom, at people or birds and some bark because they are stressed or anxious. A dog barking due to anxiety needs a different approach to a dog who is bored.
Many times we have unintentionally taught our dog to bark by reinforcing the behavior. If your dog barks in the yard and you go out and shout at him, he has gotten your attention and may even think you are joining in with your own funny little human bark. Even looking at your dog when he barks can be a reinforcer.
No one should expect a dog to never bark. That’s as unreasonable as expecting a child to never talk. But some dogs bark excessively. If that’s a problem in your home, the first step is figuring out what causes your dog to bark too much. Once you know why he is barking, you can start to treat his barking problem.
Self Identification: Dogs also bark to say, “Hey, I’m over here!” They usually do this in response to hearing their owner or when they notice another dog barking in the distance. Like wolves, they may also do this to let other dogs know that this house is their domain and to stay away. Or, they may vocalize to call other dogs over to them.
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.)
When your dog automatically turns his attention to you in response 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.
Obedience collars will assess the effect of a problem and not its cause. If you really want to stop the dog from barking, you need to stop the cause or do something to fix the problem that exists. We have to add that it has been proven that shock collars are not as effective as they are advertised. Modern dog trainers see this method as something that should never be tolerated. You do not want to hurt the dog in order to get him to do something for you. He loves you and will want to please you. He might not really love you anymore when he realizes that you abuse him.
Keep in mind that not all the dog daycare centers out there are really good. You want to meet with the people that will take care of him and fully understand what happens there. After all, you are leaving the dog with strangers. You want to be sure that the dog feels great and is treated as he should be treated. If you notice that the dog is not happy and does not enjoy his time at the center, do not force him to keep going!
Reward the absence of barking: (helpful for all barkers) when your dog opts not to bark in a typically triggering situation, make a big deal of it. Most of us are used to tuning into our dogs only when we want to correct the bad behavior and we forget to acknowledge the good. If your dog sees someone out the window and looks to you instead of barking, give him a treat. If he dashes around the yard with his best dog pal without offering commentary, praise him. If his ball rolls under the couch and he chooses to sit and wait for you to get it instead of demanding immediate help, give him a pat and fetch that ball! Even though barking is a deeply rewarding behavior for dogs, it’s possible to get a handle on it with time and patience.
Food puzzle toys and hollow rubber toys that can be stuffed with treats are great entertainment for dogs. They give your dog something fun to do while you are gone. Keep a couple on hand so you can leave one for him every day. It’s okay if he gets most of his meals this way. He’s working for his food!
Once your dog is reliably going to his spot, vary where you are when you send him there. Practice asking him to go to his spot from many different angles and distances. For example, say “Go to your spot” when you’re standing a few steps to the left of it. After a few repetitions, move a few steps to the right of the spot and say, “Go to your spot” from that position. Then move to another area in the room, then another, etc. Eventually, practice standing by the front door and asking your dog to go to his spot, just as you might when visitors arrive.
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.
I have tried one of the white triangular anti-bark collars that say they use ultra sound. It was the biggest waste of money. (and it was only $3 on e-bay) It has a high pitched tone when the dog barks (can be heard by humans) and another Ultra-sonic sound (that can also be heard by humans.)
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.
You can use the positive interrupt to redirect a frenzy of frustration barking. If you consistently offer high value treats in the presence of frustration-causing stimuli, you can counter-condition your dog to look to you for treats when the cat strolls by (cat = yummy treats) rather than erupt into a barking fit.
Why do dogs bark? Unfortunately, there is no single reason that dogs vocalize, which means that there’s no across-the-board quick fix to stop your dog from barking. It can be frustrating to live in a home with (or next door to!) a dog that barks because it’s tough to prevent barking, and even tougher to stop it once the barking is underway. The first step to curbing a dedicated barker is discovering the motivation behind the behavior then addressing the problem with a customized training solution.