Barking is as natural to puppies as breathing. It’s how they communicate, show fear, seek attention, play and warn us of an unexpected visitor or intruder. While it is understood that we cannot stop barking entirely (nor would most dogs owners want to) there are ways to control to barking, so that it does not become excessive.
One mistake that many dog owners make is unintentionally reinforcing the unwanted behavior of barking. When your dog barks because he wants attention and you rub his belly or talk sweetly to him, that teaches him that barking is a way to get you to spend time with him. Even worse, if you try to ignore him but eventually give in, that teaches him that it takes a LOT of barking to get your attention. He’ll bark even longer the next time he is lonely for you. In order to avoid reinforcing this behavior, dog owners must be careful to avoid rewarding it.
A tactic often used by novice dog owners it to yell at the dog when it barks. The problem is that when your puppy hears you yelling, he thinks you are barking along with him. Experts say it’s better to use one word every time you want your dog to stop barking.
The Quiet Command
Try a simple command, such as “Quiet”. The same word should be used by everyone in the home. Consistency is important in quickly bringing about the desired results.
Just as there are different reasons for barking, there are also different methods for teaching your puppy not to bark. Of course, most dog owners do not want to discourage all barking. Many find it reassuring to have a dog that will consistently alert them to the presence of an intruder. But once notified of a visitor or intruder, the ideal situation is to have a dog who then obey your command of “Quiet!”.
This will not happen overnight, but by being consistent, you will teach your dog to stop barking on your command.
Some dogs bark at the sight or sound of a certain thing, such as a vacuum cleaner. If you have noticed that a certain object or sound always causes your dog to bark, you can then work towards getting your dog used to that object or sound. For example, if the vacuum cleaner causes your dog to bark, try having someone else turn it on while you pet your dog. Talk soothingly to him and try to get him to be as relaxed as possible while the vacuum cleaner is running. Once he learns to be relaxed while the offending noise is present, that will help stop his barking in the future.
Constant barking when you leave the dog alone is a sign that your dog has separation anxiety and may need the help of an animal behaviorist to correct the situation. While it’s hard to leave your best friend while he is barking loudly for your return, if you give in you are reinforcing the bad behavior.
Some choose methods other than behavior modification to help control barking. There are “no bark” collars for sale that produce a mild electric shock, emit a high-pitched noise or an offending odor whenever the dog begins to bark. Most experts agree that these collars alone will not stop the barking, but that they can be a good addition to behavior modification.
Training your puppy early is much easier than having to undo bad behavior in an older dog. Remember, if you want your dog to obey a command to bark, he must also be able to obey a command to stop.
The earlier you start your training, the sooner you have a happier and more well-behaved puppy.