Ironic that I should be writing a how to get your dog to stop barking post when for the first time in my life, and after being a pro dog trainer for close to 20 years, I am living with dogs who love the sound of their own voices. Let’s meet the players, shall we.
Meet Finney, our 5 year old Smooth Collie.
Like many Collies, he loves to bark and has a lot to say. Think Sheltie, only bigger. Finn’s bark has a genetic component. Collie’s bark to herd sheep. In the photo below, Finn is just about to bark “let’s play!”
Even at the beach I needed to stop him and redirect his fun.
Meet Beck. He is my first failed foster dog. Beck officially joined our family in March. Guess what? The damn dog didn’t bark the entire 6 weeks he was in foster care with me. It is true what they say about rescue dog’s honeymoon periods.
Beck is a Border Collie x and he is about 1 1/2 years old. He spent more than 1/2 of his young life before coming to me in a shelter in Mississippi.
His barking is usually a result of barrier issues, insecurity, or frustration.
In the photo above, Beck is about to bark. He barked to get Finney to chase him. Right after this photo was snapped, I intervened and stopped Finney from barking. Beck is an action guy and he then barked to get Finn going again. In this instance, I called them to me and gave them both a minute to chillax and regroup.
I am on these two dogs about noise levels all the time. They sometimes feed off each other.
Our last foster dog Ginger was quite vocal. How I wish I had recorded her on video.
She is the closest I have ever had to a talking dog. Ginger was a very clear communicator. She whined when I left, and chirped when I woke up. She barked at squirrels, mewed to the kids. She had a different bark when she was happy, hungry, tired, sensed danger, and if she was scared, or annoyed. She had a different bark for just about any emotion you can think of. She is hilarious, and Ginger is chirping happily in her new home .
So, what may you ask does this have to do with your dog.
I mentioned my dogs because they all bark for completely different reasons. Each requires a unique approach to get them to shut the hell up stop.
If you are living with barking, I feel for you all. I really do. In case you haven’t realized my other point, it is this.
Dogs bark because they are dogs, they bark to alert to danger or for attention. Many bark for food. They bark because they are happy, fearful, sad, anxious, frustrated, going deaf, scared or hurt. They howl at the sirens. Some howl at the moon. Some dogs bark to hear themselves bark and many bark because they are under stimulated and bored. There are so many reasons a dog could be barking. There are even dogs who bark because the sky is blue. Some dogs bark more than others. I am sure by now you get the idea. Dogs bark for lots of reasons. To help your dog, it really helps to get to the root of why your dog is barking and what they are barking it, and most importantly, what you may be doing to contribute.
Sometimes dogs bark for darn good reasons. I recall one January morning when I was awoken before the sun. The dogs were going ballistic. I peered out the window to see a young moose sauntering down the street!
Most of us do want our dogs to alert and then we want them to knock it off!
Below is a basic list of tried and true barking solutions that we utilize around here pretty much on a daily basis. I have not met you and your dog. Your issues and mileage may of course vary. The list is intended to serve as a spring board, and get you thinking of ways to solve your barking issues in a positive way.
1.) Teach your dog to speak on cue
The standard dog training go to answer is to put an unwanted behavior on cue. By teaching your dog, a behavior it should only come out when you cue it. For dogs that have a lot to say (Finney!) this really helps get the edge off. My favorite reason to teach a dog to bark on cue is that at the same time we teach the “enough” or “stop” or whatever you choose to call it cue. Most of us think our dogs understand what they are saying. Often they do not.
This is true for other unwanted behaviors as well.
2.) Change your routine
Take a few days and keep a journal of what your dog barks at, and then think long and hard what you could do different to manage your dog better.
An example of this is a dog barking outside in the yard unattended. One thing that works around here is I leash walk the Collie in the yard before taking him off leash. This gives Finn a chance to chill a bit and the squirrels a chance to flee, without the added satisfaction my dog gets of driving them away. For many of us, it means just not opening the dog and sending the dogs out to play in the yard unattended to bark.
3.) Teach your dog an alternative behavior
For instance, if every time the neighborhood kid comes to shoot hoops in front of your house, your dog barks at them, try teaching them that every time the kid comes to shoot hoops in front of house it means treats at their mat for chilling out. Can you think of other alternatives that you could train at your house?
4.) Recognize barking patterns
I see this one in my dogs, and client’s dogs all the time.
A dog is walking by your house. Does your dog have a familiar pattern? Maybe bark bark at one window, then the next, then dash back and forth between the two?
Ya that. Interrupt that and don’t let that happen, the proceed to number 3.
I had a six month old puppy in class last night that barks at his humans when they sit down to watch TV,usually from 5-7 PM range. That pup needs more exercise, but also something to do. Enrichment toys, bully sticks, raw marrow bones, training games before they settle for the night will all help this dog. This one also falls under most of the other numbers.
Do your neighbors who get barked at have predictable patterns? The neighbor’s little yippie pup gets let our everyday at 12:20 when the Dad comes home for lunch. This can get my dogs going. You can bet my dogs are not in the yard at that time. No need to have a bark off if you can avoid it. Some dogs would do well to avoid being out and about at certain times. For some dogs that means avoiding before and after work times. Know your hood.
Maybe your dog barks at the mailman every single day and then the mailman leaves. There is a name for this and it is called Mailman Syndrome. Your dog is being rewarded for doing a job. What do you think you can do to redirect this daily occurrence?
5.) Ask yourself what you may be doing that contributes to your dog’s barking
Did you know that if we yell at a barking dog, they often feel we are joining in? Does your dog bark at you when you are the phone? Think maybe you taught this by accidentally giving them the attention they were seeking?
6.) Use barriers
Is your dog a visual barker? Does he bark at things? Can you think of ways to cut your dog’s visual stimulation?
7.) Stop putting your dog in situations where they feel the need to bark
Think of your dog as a bubble that could pop. Do you know what makes your dog pop? Most dogs just want to feel safe and need space from things that they don’t understand or scare them. Dog barks at some passing dogs on the street? Then why did you bring your dog over to sniff it’s butt? Stop doing that! Is your dog loose in the house all day getting all worked up barking at windows? Think maybe you should start by not allowing access?
8.) NILF if you are not already
NILF stands for nothing in life is free and should be a way of life for most dogs and definitely if you are having any issues with your dog. Basically the dog is on a work to earn program and has to do something to get stuff. You should be your dog’s benevolent leader. NILF will help you get there.
Running around by themselves or even with other dogs in the yard is not enough.
A young high energy dog needs about 2 hours of exercise a day. Most dogs are happy with several leash walks a day. Are you meeting your dogs physical needs?
10) Training, training, training -this includes desensitization
Keep your dog’s mind busy learning new things. They will be much less edgy. Does your dog know the basics? How about teaching some tricks?
Does your dog bark at the doorbell? Do you not even have a door bell, but your dog barks at ones on TV? Does your dog bark at car horns? When certain people come over? All these things and more! can be addressed with training and desensitization. They do not just up and go away on their own. You have to work at it. My next blog post will be a How to – Desensitization.
11.) Management, management, management
Crates, gates, doors, leashes, loud radios, curtains, fences, x-pens, drag lines, and long lines are all our friends!
***** If your dog is barking to show fear of people or other dogs, by all means listen to them. Do not a extinguish a dog’s warning bark away or you may be left with a dog who bites and fights seemingly without warning. ******
There are many products on the Market to help people get a grip on barking and I am not a fan of most of them.
I leave you with a warning. If your dog is barking while tied out, or even worse barking and chasing while out on an electric fence or even in a fenced yard, you have the makings of a time bomb. Dogs who see the world just out of their reach and are allowed to live in an aroused state are the dogs will be go after things when the opportunity arises.
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