How do I get my dog to stop barking?

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Barking.  It’s one of the top reasons that dog owners turn to professionals for help.  Barking is a perfectly natural canine behavior, but our dogs have to live in a world with creatures that like quiet!

Why does your dog bark?

There are many causes and many types of barking.  There is the barking your dog does when you come home; the barking he does that scares the mailman away, day after day; bored, can’t-find-anything-better-to-do barking; habituated barking (think doorbell) and fear/anxiety barking.  It’s no wonder people have barking problems with their dogs. Most dogs don’t know if barking is something good or bad.  Sometimes, when the dog barks, he is ignored (owner in a jolly mood).  Other times, the dog is encouraged (owner sees a suspicious stranger outside the house).  And still other times, the dog is yelled at (owner has a headache). Humans are consistently inconsistent.  The first thing to look at is your dog’s reason for barking, and then address the reason.

If your dog, like many dogs, is a habitual barker, he will bark every time he hears the doorbell ring,

” target=”_blank”>even if it’s on TV.  You have probably learned to yell at your dog to hush, shut up, be quiet, etc.  And if he doesn’t, I’ll bet you try harder and louder.  Guess what?  You just joined your dog in a bark-fest!  Barking can be a social activity among dogs, something any multi-dog household owner knows all too well.  So, what should you do instead?

Your job is to change his motivation.  In order to do this, you must first teach a quiet command.

Teaching a quiet command

To teach the quiet command, set your dog up by having someone knock on the door or ring the doorbell.  As soon as Fido begins to bark, quickly approach him with a yummy treat.  Don’t be stingy.  Use something he can’t resist, like chicken, string cheese or freeze-dried liver.  Say (don’t yell) “quiet,” put the treat right under his nose, and lead him back away from the door to a spot of your choosing.  Wait 1-2 seconds, and then reward the quiet by giving him the treat.  If he then runs back toward the door, repeat but have him wait 3-4 seconds before you release the treat.  As he waits, tell him “good quiet” and then reward.

Practice makes perfect

Practice the quiet command with Fido’s strongest trigger several times a day.  As he progresses, begin to use the command at a short distance so he has to turn from the door himself and come to you, then sit and be quiet for increasing periods of time before you give him the reward.  Have each family member or roommate practice too.  As he gets better at maintaining quiet, add the next step and ask a friend to ring the bell, wait for quiet, and then enter.  If Fido barks at the friend, use the same approach as you originally did with the doorbell.

What you will succeed in teaching your dog is a new learned response for things that previously triggered his barking behavior.  This positive approach allows your dog to find success in offering a new, quieter behavior and be rewarded for doing so!

Once you have established a reliable quiet command, you will be able to use it everywhere your dog barks.  But you must be consistent, remain calm, and if you have asked for quiet, be prepared to follow through with motivation if he doesn’t stop right away.  Otherwise, your dog will quickly learn that you don’t really mean what you say, and he can go right back to his old ways!  Use your imagination when motivating your dog.  Many dogs can learn that a ringing doorbell is a cue to go pick up a toy.  That’s much better than barking!  And remember to be consistent in your training.  Keeping up regular obedience training and exercise is always a plus.  A tired dog is a good dog!

Have you tried these training techniques?  Let me know in the comments!

Cynthia Gordon CPDT-KA is a Victoria Stilwell-Approved Positively Trainer. Check out her website: Gentle Touch Dog Training. Gordon is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, APDT Professional Member, Tellington TTouch Practitioner Apprentice Examiner and member of the American Temperament Testing Society.

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