Dogs make great pets and companions. When man’s best friend barks excessively, however, it can be a nuisance to both the owner and disgruntled neighbors. In some cases, landlords may literally bark down the door of the owner with threats of eviction due to tenant and neighbor complaints. The trick here is not to train a dog not to bark at all, but to train it not to bark to the point where it becomes a distraction.
Determining the Cause of the Barking
The first step in training a dog not to bark to the point of annoyance is to determine why the dog is barking in the first place. Some dogs bark to alert their owner of someone coming or out of fear when somebody comes around that they don’t know. Other dogs just bark naturally when stimulated in any way, even if it’s just a shadow on the wall. Some dogs just bark because they happen to be happy. If the owner discovers why their dog is barking, the easiest remedy is to remove the stimulus causing the excessive barking. Additional causes of barking may include:
• Separation anxiety from the owner
• Reaction to noises outside of the home (such as traffic or stray barking dogs)
• Territorial (if the owner has more than one dog or pet)
• Frustration (such as being left behind when the owner goes to work or goes out)
• Wanting attention or wanting to play (or just plain restlessness or boredom)
Teaching Commands to Control Barking
If taking away the stimulus that’s causing the barking doesn’t work or it’s not possible to do so (as in traffic and outside noises), there are other techniques an owner can try. One option is for the owner to teach Fido commands for when it’s allowed to speak and when it’s time to stop the barking. While actually teaching a dog to “speak” may not seem all that wise for an owner when dealing with neighbors already up in arms, it’s a way of teaching a dog when it’s appropriate to bark and when it’s best to be mindful of its owner. If a dog can “speak” on command for its owner, it’s also more likely to stay quiet when not being verbally prompted.
Ignore the Barking
The basic reason a dog barks is to get attention. By walking away from a dog when it starts to bark excessively, the dog is likely to stop barking when it realizes that it’s not getting automatic attention. Of course, it’s still important for an owner to check why a dog is barking when it gets to the point where it’s not barking all the time. When a dog stops barking when ignored, the owner can give the dog praise or even a treat when it acts in the desired manner. It’s almost universal that a dog really wants to please its owner. Once the dog figures out that barking constantly is not appreciated, it’s more like to stop doing that behavior to please its owner.
Address Some of the Causes of Barking
If the owner discovers that their dog is barking, for instance, because it’s challenged by other pets in the home, consider separating the pets that don’t get along well together. If it’s other dogs in the neighborhood, an owner may try discussing the issue with the other owners of the barking dogs. If, on the other hand, a dog just doesn’t want to leave its owner, the own may consider leaving it with a family friend or neighbor that the dog already knows. If the dog just wants to play, an owner may consider getting some toys to preoccupy the dog until he or she returns home. Another option is doggy daycare or turning to a dog sitter. These options also give a barking dog more socialization opportunities, which may get the excessive barking under control.
Don’t Punish the Dog for Barking
It’s better for an owner to opt for a reward-based system rather than punishing the dog for barking. While the idea is to teach a dog that barking isn’t always appreciated, teaching a dog to fear some kind of punishment whenever it barks isn’t healthy either. An owner needs to realize that a dog isn’t likely barking in defiance. Most dogs don’t intend to annoy an owner or others within earshot of its barking. Some additional methods to discourage barking include:
• Letting a dog to burn off some energy in the yard before the owner leaves for work
• Making sure the dog has enough food and water throughout the day
• If other reasons are eliminated, taking a dog to the vet to check for medical reasons
• If a dog barks in reaction to other dogs, determining which dogs are the instigators
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching a dog not to bark. It’s important for the owner to take the time to determine why their dog is barking in the first place, if possible. If the exact reason for the barking cannot be determined, one option is to try removing certain distractions or giving the dog some more toys in an effort to find something that will keep the dog calm or otherwise engaged. Keep in mind that sometimes a dog may bark just because it’s happy or to warn its owner of something it perceives as a threat such as an unknown visitor. The dog shouldn’t be made to feel like it’s doing something wrong every time it barks, regardless of the reason. By teaching a dog when barking is acceptable and when it’s best to remain silent, an owner is likely to enjoy a better-behaved pet, a quieter home, and nicer neighbors.