Welcome to our “Untraining Your Pet” series, where we help you “untrain” your pet from those naughty or annoying bad habits and get them back to being the goodest boys and girls.
Does your dog tell you when every bird, squirrel, dog, cat and leaf goes by the front window? Do they tell the whole neighborhood when there’s a visitor at your front door? Barking is a natural instinct for dogs, but sometimes their natural behavior can be a little… excessive for you and your neighbors.
Dogs bark for many reasons, so if you’re wondering, “How do I stop my dog from barking?” it’s important to get to the root cause of it. Are they bored? Anxious? Being territorial? Once you find out what your barking dog’s trigger is, you can start to untrain them from this noisy and annoying habit (and remain friends with your neighbors).
What Makes Your Dog Bark?
If your dog barks at everything in sight, they’re probably a territorial barker and are trying to protect their family and home. Sometimes this can be a good thing, like if they bark to warn off potential intruders. But if they’re barking at everything and anything that moves, that’s not so good.
A social barker will join in the barking chorus of neighborhood dogs. Think of it like social media for dogs — it’s how dogs communicate when they can’t see each other. But even dogs need to put the “phone” down and have some quiet time.
Bored dogs use barking to entertain themselves or to let you know that they want attention. Keep in mind that hollering “Stop barking!” gives them the attention they want, even if it’s negative, so that’s why they keep barking. The other problem with a bored dog is that sometimes they do more than just bark — they find other things to occupy their time like chewing on the couch or digging a hole in the rug.
Dogs can also bark because they’re anxious or scared. Separation anxiety can cause excessive barking and can also result in destructive behaviors or even aggression. Mental stimulation may help, but if you think your dog has separation anxiety you should consult your veterinarian on the best treatment plan for your dog.
The sound of your dog’s bark can tell you a lot about the meaning behind their bark. A long series of solo barks usually means your dog’s lonely, while a rapid-fire strings of barks means something is up.
Keep Your Barker Busy
Providing plenty of mental stimulation for your dog can help prevent boredom and help them forget about the distractions outside or what the neighborhood dogs are saying. Interactive toys are a great way to keep your dog busy. They typically work by making your dog use their problem-solving skills to solve a puzzle and get a reward. You can also get puzzle toys that move around so your dog is exercising physically and mentally.
It’s important to rotate the toys out every few days, though. If your dog has the puzzle mastered, they’re going to get to the treat pretty quick and they’ll be back to being bored. Providing them with different types of toys will also help delay boredom setting in while they’re waiting for you to get home.
If your dog barks while you’re out, it’s a little hard to do much about it or know that it’s going on (until a neighbor knocks on your door). To keep an eye on your dog while you’re away from home, you could invest in a pet camera. Some offer treat-dispensing abilities, so you can randomly dispense treats and have your dog wondering when the next treat’s coming. Some also have two-way audio that sends notifications when your dog barks so you can tell them “Hey, I’m watching you.”
Making sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise can also help reduce attention-seeking or boredom barking. If they’re napping because they’re worn out, they’re probably not going to bark (unless they’re dreaming).
Training Your Dog to Stop Barking
The first step is to try to find out what triggers your dog’s excessive barking. Think about when they bark. Is it a particular time of the day? What’s happening around that time? If you can work out what is making them bark, you may be able to remove the trigger. For example, if they always bark at the mail carrier, move them to another room around mail time.
Remember that if your dog is barking because they see something interesting outside and you let them out, they’ll quickly learn that barking gets them where they want to be — outside with the interesting “thing.” Instead, ignore them while they’re barking and reward them when they’re quiet.
Ignoring constant barking can be hard, but don’t give in, no matter how loud and grating the barking gets. When you hear a break in the barking, wait a few seconds then give your dog a treat or reward. Keep rewarding silence, waiting a few more seconds before you hand over the treat each time. Eventually you can reward your dog with cuddles instead of a treat. It may also help to randomly reward them when they’re not barking — that shows them that being quiet is a good thing.
It’s important to be consistent with your no-barking policy. It will be confusing for your dog if they’re allowed to bark at a visitor at the front door, but they’re not allowed to bark at the squirrel taunting them from the back fence. If your dog does bark excitedly when visitors arrive, ask your friends to ignore your dog until the barking has stopped and they’re calm.
Untraining your dog from excessive barking will take patience, time and possibly a good set of ear plugs. Ignoring them while they’re barking and providing them with plenty of physical and mental stimulation can help bring some peace and quiet to your house. If you’re still having trouble managing your dog’s barking, consult your veterinarian or a certified trainer for advice.
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