Barking is a natural behaviour for dogs, and one they should be allowed to perform. But excessive or inappropriate barking can be frustrating and disruptive. Excessive barking indicates something is not right in your dog’s world and may occur as a result of boredom, fear, separation distress and many more reasons. This handout describes how to identify some of the causes behind your dog’s barking and how to take steps to reduce their barking. Remember, patience and consistency are key to successful training.
1. Identify the Triggers: Observe your dog and note the situations or stimuli that trigger their barking. Common triggers include doorbells, strangers, other animals, the owner leaving or excitement. Understanding the triggers will help you address the specific issue.
2. Teach the "Quiet" or “Thank You” Cue: Find a quiet, distraction-free environment to start the training and ensure you have some treats ready. Choose tasty, bite-sized treats your dog loves. With your dog in front of you, say the cue “thank you” or “quiet” and immediately reward them with a piece of food. Repeat this five times. Now leave your dog and hide out of sight. Call out your cue and wait for your dog. They will come to find you at which point you can reward them with a piece of food. Repeat this exercise every day for at least five days.
The next stage is to gently trigger their barking (e.g., by knocking on a door or hard surface). Once your dog starts barking, verbally give your cue “thank you” or “quiet” and when they stop barking immediately reward your dog with a treat and praise. Practice this repeatedly, gradually increasing the duration of quiet before giving a treat.
Whenever your dog stops barking on command, reward them with treats, verbal praise, and affection. Consistency is vital; always reward their quiet behaviour, reinforcing the association between the command and positive outcomes.
3. Avoid Punishment: Avoid scolding, yelling, or using any form of punishment when your dog barks. Punishment may cause fear or anxiety, worsening the barking problem.
4. Gradually Increase Difficulty: Practice the "Quiet" or “Thank you” cue in different environments and with various distractions, increasing the difficulty level gradually. Start practicing in environments where there are mild distractions and gradually work up to more challenging situations.
5. Time and Patience: Remember that every dog is different, and some may take longer to learn than others. Be patient and consistent with your training efforts.
6. Manage their world: When you are not training your dog manage the world around them to reduce their opportunities to practice barking. Play quiet music in the background to dull outside noise. Use window film to block their view of triggers outside. Provide them with cosy, soundproof dens and teach them to go to their bed to reduce stimulation and ensure they receive adequate sleep.
7. Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Ensure your dog gets enough physical exercise and mental stimulation daily. A tired and mentally stimulated dog is less likely to bark excessively out of boredom or pent-up energy. Provide your dog with daily mental enrichment such as puzzles, chews or scentwork, as well as physical exercise where appropriate.
By following these steps and using positive reinforcement, you can effectively teach your dog to stop barking on command, promoting a harmonious living environment for both you and your furry companion. Happy training!