Our post yesterday about a news story on barking generated a lot of interest in ways to help control your dog’s barking. So, our resident dog behavior specialist, Trainer Dan whipped up this column for us with some tips. Thanks, Dan! 🙂
Problem barking is a common concern for pet owners. With some dogs in certain situations, it seems like nothing short of passing out will stop them from barking! Dealing with barking issues can be very frustrating, partly because it doesn’t seem like anything works and partly because the things that do work generally take a while to take effect.
It’s also important to realize that there are different reasons why a dog may bark. Certain breeds–such as beagles or basset hounds, for example–are bred to bark. For countless generations, they’ve been bred to notice things and bark to alert us of those things. With these dogs, training them to stop barking takes large amounts of time and patience.
Another common reason for barking is discomfort or anxiety. With these dogs, the key is building confidence in uncomfortable situations. While it’s natural to focus on stopping the unwanted behaviors, it’s far more helpful to reward the wanted behaviors! Basically, every time your dog stops barking, give a small reward (a treat, some petting, a kind word, etc.). While your dog is barking, don’t give any rewards–remember that affection is a reward! The goal is to teach your dog that noises get ignored and quietness gets rewarded.
A trick that you can sometimes use to help deal with incessant barking seems counter-productive, but bear with me: teach your dog to bark on command. If your dog is a barker, it shouldn’t be difficult to teach them to bark when you say “Speak!”. While you’re training this, though, you’re also going to teach them “Quiet”. As soon as they stop barking, you say “Quiet”. This way, in the future, you can say “Quiet” whenever your dog is barking, even if you hadn’t told them to start!
If you have any dog training questions, feel free to post them in the comments or send them my way! You can reach me at dan.cicio (at) gmail dotcom or @trainer_dan on Twitter.
Dan Cicio – a dog trainer at My Doggies Daycare in Southern California. He started there as a kennel supervisor and quickly realized just how much he enjoyed working with the dogs, to the point that he knew it would be his life’s work. Understanding dog behavior and responses always interested him, so training was the natural course. Dan is a certified trainer through the Animal Behavior College, and will be answers reader questions about dog training and behavior for My Tail Hurts From Wagging So Much on a regular basis.