It is only natural for dogs to make some noise from time to time. After all, barking is an essential part of how a dog communicates with the world, its owner, as well as other dogs. While no one can expect a dog to be quiet all the time, some dogs can develop bad barking habits that can become a hassle for everyone involved. If your dog has become accustomed to nuisance barking, not all hope is lost! Just like the human habits of biting fingernails and staying up late, a dog’s habits can be broken with time and dedication. With this in mind, how exactly should you go about stopping a dog from barking?
Before teaching a new command to your dog or trying out a new routine, it is important to establish why you are going through the trouble to silence your dog in the first place. In other words, why is your dog barking so much? Identifying the motivation your dog has for barking can help you plan training accordingly and effectively. Since barking is a big part of a dog’s verbal language, they can bark for a multitude of reasons depending on the situation. For instance, dogs mainly use barking to protect their territory. If someone or another dog happens to intrude on your lawn, it can cause your dog to bark excessively until the threat is gone. On the flip side, barking can be involuntarily done out of fear or curiosity. Of course, barking can also be a way for a dog to convey loneliness, playfulness, or need for attention from their owner.
While the reasons alone seem harmless enough, the way we respond to these messages can lead to a trend of excessive barking. If you pet a barking dog to calm them down, they will eventually learn that barking will earn them a nice pat and will not stop. Even scolding a dog that is trying to say ‘hi’ can cause the dog to misinterpret the yelling as their owner barking back. Yelling in this situation will only cause a dog to bark even more. Moreover, pushing a dog away that is barking to play will only make the scolding into a little game. After a while, it can be easy to see that without context, stopping your dog from barking is nearly impossible. However, finding what your dog barks at can make using the following techniques much easier.
One method used to break a barking habit is to stop giving rewards for barking. As discussed earlier, dogs correlate barking with the actions we respond with. If these actions are seen as favorable, a dog will keep barking to get the same reward. With this in mind, simply try ignoring your dog when they start barking. With no reaction, your dog will eventually be confused or tired and stop barking. At this time, give lots of praise and treats to reward his silence. It may take some time, but eventually, your dog will learn he gets nothing from barking at you and in turn will enjoy the praise that comes with the silence. However, the key to this method is to have patience and never react when your dog starts barking. If you break the act in frustration before he is quiet, your dog will only learn he needs to bark longer to get your attention.
Another technique people use to quiet their pooch involves traditional training. For the best results, start training by teaching your dog the ‘speak’ command. Take you and your dog into a calm environment with no distractions so they are not inclined to bark at their normal stimulus. Then, begin by repeatedly saying ‘speak’ and give him a treat once he barks a couple of times. While this may seem ironic, teaching this simple phrase can make teaching the quiet command an easier process for you and your furry friend.
To learn the quiet command, start by telling your dog to speak. When they start making a commotion for a minute or two, either say ‘quiet’ or make a quiet gesture such as putting a finger to your lips until they stop. Once they finally stop, even for a breath, reward them with a treat and keep practicing. The key for this method to be successful comes with practice and dedication. Once your dog can perform the command, try practicing it with increasingly more distractions to raise the difficulty. Eventually, your dog will listen to you instead of barking in a normal situation, especially if the reward for obeying is better than barking at the door or a new face.
If the direct command to be quiet is not working, there are alternatives that might. Another option is to teach your dog a command that is incompatible with barking. For instance, telling your pooch to fetch their favorite toy will cause them to stop barking. An alternative command could even take them away from their barking stimulus.
No matter which method you choose, it is critical to remember that your lovable friend has feelings too. While training, remember not to yell at them in frustration, keep the sessions short and positive, all while being consistent in your training. While these methods are not an instant miracle-worker, working hard with your dog can help break the barking habit in no time at all!