The Vocal Dog ~ Train Your Pooch to Quiet Down

barking dogBarking comes naturally to dogs as a form of vocal communication but, in excess, can be quite a nuisance for the human members of their pack, as well as their neighbors. If your pooch barks incessantly when left home alone, bellows at birds and squirrels he spots outside, or becomes overly vocal when visitors arrive, a bit of proper training can help.

Often, a pet parent’s immediate reaction to a barking dog is to shout at him. Unfortunately, since your dog responds to tone, he probably misinterprets your yells for barking, thinking you’re joining in on the fun. As well, your shouting may influence Fido to bark even more, as it’s a form of attention. He may even begin to bark at nothing, just to get a reaction from you. Most forms of verbal or physical discipline will be perceived as attention from his human. Once the attention stops, he will likely continue to bark assuming more attention will follow.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

There are many reasons why dogs bark ~ to show excitement, distress, affection, nervousness, boredom… they simply can’t express emotions the way people do, so they bark their emotions. Your dog considers barking a solution to a problem. If he barks when you leave him home alone, upon your return he thinks his barking called you back. If he barks at your neighbor taking a leisurely stroll down your street, once the neighbor is no longer in site, he thinks he successfully chased off a threat.

Possible Solutions for Possible Causes

Pent-Up Energy ~ While there are emotional factors at play, one of the main reasons these emotional factors result in boundless barking is simple ~ your four-legged friend has pent-up energy. Be sure to fulfill your dog’s mental and physical needs on a daily basis. Challenge him with brisk walks in new environments, obedience games and play time. This alone may do the trick. After all, more exercise = less energy = diminished desire to bark.

Seeking Attention ~ Another possible solution is to change his belief that barking results in attention. Rather than scold or give him physical contact when he barks, silently turn your back to him and walk away. Be patient and wait as long as it takes for him to be quiet. Hopefully, he will soon learn barking is counter-productive.

Stimulation ~ If your dog barks at a specific stimulus, such as other dogs or the vacuum cleaner, work to desensitize him to the stimulus. Begin with the stimulus at a distance and gradually work it closer to him, rewarding him with treats for every few feet the stimulus moves toward him. You want to teach him to equate the stimulus with something good ~ yummy treats! Repeat the process as often as it takes, and keep in mind it may take a few days or even a few weeks for the new behavior to be learned.

The Bait and Switch ~ Finally, try teaching your pooch an incompatible behavior. When he starts barking, command him to do something else. Perhaps toss a treat on his bed and say “go to bed.” Teach him to react to a stimulus that would otherwise make him bark by commanding him and rewarding him to do something else.

Don’t let your dog drive you barking mad! Work with him to curb his undesirable behavior and remember, reward is the best motivator. Praise him as he does the right thing, not afterward. Hopefully this will eventually teach your dog to do the right thing next time!