A dog vocalizes by barking. However, it can become a behavioral issue if its barking is overly excessive or uncontrolled. If your dog has a barking issue, with the proper approaches and the right techniques or by addressing the cause, you can train your dog for better behaviors. Let’s look into 4 approaches to address the issue here.
1. Stopping your dog from developing the barking habit
Don’t respond to the barking with shouting.Training a dog to stop barking when it’s still a puppy is easier than breaking its habit after your dog has developed the habit. One key factor is not rewarding or reinforcing barking from the on-set. When your dog starts barking and you shout at it to keep quiet, you are actually rewarding its barking with attention, and this, your dog will think that your shouting is your type of barking in response. By thinking of this as approval, your dog is very likely to repeat the behavior.
Ignoring the barking. Instead of shouting at your dog to keep quiet, try to first ignore the barking. If your dog doesn’t tie its barking with attention and your responses, then it’s less likely to repeat the behavior.
Distracting your dog from barking. If ignoring your dog’s barking doesn’t work after a while, then try distracting it from the behavior, like deliberate dropping an item on the floor, opening a door, or doing something that usually attracts your dog’s attention and causes it to stop barking to check out what’s going on.
Refocus your dog to a thing you can easily reinforce. When your dog has been distracted from its barking and the dog has come to you to find out more, then command your dog to sit or stay. And immediately reward the positive behavior, which will reinforce the positive behavior instead of barking. This shows your dog is in need of some basic training too. Using some familiar basic commands to distract your dog is a great way to avoid unintentional reinforcement of its barking. Dog clicker training is another great method to positively reinforce good behaviors.
Lead your dog inside your compound if the barking occurs outside. If your dog barks within your compound at passersby, then lead your dog by the leash inside to stop the barking. Do this again next time around when your dog starts barking at other passersby. Doing this in the middle of its barking will teach your dog that barking means no more having fun outside the compound.
- Giving your dog lots of exercises. Barking is a form of emotional expression for your dog, especially when it’s boring. Giving lots of exercise to your dog will help stop it from developing a barking habit when it’s boring. Have at least two 15-minute outing sessions with your dog every day for exercise to play ‘run and fetch.’ The session to be increased to up to an hour each day for larger and more energetic dogs. If your dog still barks due to boredom even though it’s out twice a day to dispense some energy, try increasing the time you spend out for each exercise session with your dog.
2. Finding and Addressing the Cause
- Finding out why your dog is barking. This is the first step to find out what is causing it to bark. You might have to do some assumptions, especially if your dog often barks when you aren’t home. To help you better understand your dog’s barking behavior. Ask your neighbors if they notice your dog’s barking pattern. Assure your neighbors that you’re aware your dog has a barking issue and is working to address it, which will also help them see you as a solution rather than part of the issue. If you have a CCTV pointing towards your compound, replay it to find out potential visual and aural triggers that cause your dog’s barking. Replay and review the recordings for over several days, so you’ll be able to get a better understanding of your dog’s barking behavior.
- Determine the cause of your dog’s barking. After obtaining evidence, start looking for triggers and patterns. Common triggers may include: Attracting your attention to a need. Your dog may be looking to get your attention due to an urgent need, like thirst, hunger or even to use the toilet; Boredom, or anger. A dog may feel bored or angry if it’s restricted in a particular area or has no outlets to dispense its excess energy. Barking may also be a way for your dog to release tension and anxiety; Frighten. If an object, people, or noise frightens your dog, it’ll react by barking. You can see from your dog’s reaction whether it’s due to fear, that’s when its ears are pulled back and its tail lowered; Asserting territorial. If a dog feels a person or other animal as intruding on its territory, it’ll bark to assert a claim to that territory. You can often see when a dog’s barking is territorial because its ears will be pulled in front and its tail held up high; Feeling excited. Dogs will bark when they’re excited to see their owners; and it’s having health concerns. If a dog is having some health concerns like an ache, hard of hearing, pain, or psychological distress, it may bark to show that something is wrong.
- Take your dog to see a vet. If you feel that your dog may be barking due to a health concern, bring it to see a vet. Remember that older dogs may bark due to dementia. Nevertheless, your vet can prescribe you a medication to help your dog cope with the disease.
3. Controlling the Barking
- Getting rid of the incentive. As soon as you’ve ascertained the causes of your dog’s barking, work on eliminating the incentive. Your dog barks due to it feeling being rewarded for that behavior. If you remove that causal factor, your dog will lose the incentive to bark. For instance, if your dog barks at passersby while inside the house, draw the curtains or blinds to block the view. If your dog barks at passersby while in the compound, lead your dog inside the house to stop the barking.
- Ignoring your dog’s barking. When starting out to re-train your dog, you have to first not respond to its barking. Dogs interpret your shouting at them or telling them to stop as giving them attention, which reinforces the behavior, irrespective of the tone of your shouting. When your dog barks, don’t give it attention by looking at it, talking to it, petting it, and certainly don’t give it any treats. Remember that your dog’s barking may get worse before it gets better if you need to get rid of its habit. When your dog has been used to you responding to its barking and suddenly you didn’t respond, then the dog will feel the need to ramp up the barking to get your attention. Avoid responding to its barking in any way. You may want to let your neighbors know that you are attempting to curb the issue of your dog’s barking and apologize for the annoyance it’s causing. If they know you are trying to correct your dog’s behavior, hopefully, they will be more receptive to the situation and will bear with it for the time being.
- Reward subtly. Once your dog stops barking, wait a minute or two to see that it isn’t in a confused state, and then subtly reward the quietness with a treat. If you do this every time your dog barks, then it’ll begin to learn that barking doesn’t bring in a reward, but quietness does. Your dog will start to tie being quiet with receiving a treat. As that happens, start to prolong the time your dog must remain quiet before receiving a reward. If you are doing dog clicker training with your dog, then remember to mark the quietness with a click before rewarding it.
- Divert your dog’s attention. When your dog starts to bark, divert it by doing something else that will distract it from the causal factor. Getting your dog to “stay” is a good way to divert, as it won’t be taken as a reward for barking, of sorts. When your dog stays quietly, reward it with a treat, but only after it’s quiet down.
- Reduce the impact of your dog’s barking on your neighbors. While you’re re-training your dog for better behavior, try keeping your dog furthest away from your neighbors as far as possible to reduce the nuisance from the barking. Keep your neighbors posted on your progress of the re-training of your dog from time to time. Having your neighbors’ understanding is a great way to maintain goodwill and avoid complaint calls.
4. Keeping Your Dog Well-Adapted
- Give your dog sufficient exercise. Dogs are social and need the stimulant from their surrounding for better adaptability and to stay healthy. Walk your dog frequently around your neighborhood. Occasionally take your dog to open areas or parks where it can run around freely.
- Give your dog sufficient attention. Dogs are pack animals and feel more secure when they are part of a pack. But in the absence of other dogs to form that pack, allow him to socialize with you and your family whenever possible. Don’t let your dog remain outside the house or unattended when you are home; your dog will feel neglected, anxious, and frustrated, leading to bad behavior.
- Consistency is key. A human inconsistency often causes dogs to be confused. For instance, at times when they bark, you shout in response, but at other times you ignore. As a result, your dog can’t figure out whether barking is good behavior or bad. The only way to train your dog to have good behavior is to be consistent, so it will be able to learn good behaviors and not the bad ones.
- Teach your dog to obey the “quiet” command. This is more meaningful than shouting at your dog to stop barking. As with any good behavior, you want your dog to learn, so be consistent. Start by teaching your dog to “talk” on command. You can do this by simulating a visitor coming to the door and knocking on it. When the dog barks, give it a treat, use the clicker if you’re also clicker training Once your dog responds consistently and is looking for a treat, give this behavior a cue word, like “talk.” Once your dog can consistently bark when commanded, you’re ready to teach the “quiet” command. Find a quiet spot with no distractions. Tell your dog to “talk,” and say “quiet,” wait for it to stop barking, use the clicker and reward it with a treat. Repeat this exercise until your dog can link the command “quiet” with stopping its barking as well as being rewarded for staying quiet.
If you find that the 4 approaches on how to get your dog to stop barking for better behavior is rather overwhelming, you can check out the Stop Dog Barking Device which works to train dogs and correct their behavioral issues.