If your dog barks a lot, it can really drive you – and your neighbors – a little mad. You can’t make your dog stop barking completely. But with some training, you can target his barking response and eliminate it in certain situations.
1. Understand Why Dogs Bark
Barking is one way that dogs communicate. By barking, a dog can convey a series of things, like: sending out the alarm about a threat, saying “hi” to a family member, or greeting another animal. Often, barking indicates that a dog wants to play. Since dogs tend to expect a response of some kind when they bark, shouting for him to stop can reinforce the behavior.
2. Remove the Reward
If your dog gets a satisfying reaction from you when he barks, take it away. Barking is best responded to with a cool head. When your dog barks, thank him (even if this feels counter-intuitive) and then tell him to be quiet. Then, if he stops barking, reward him with attention or a treat. Training is all about teaching.
3. Mid-Bark Interruption
If your dog tends to be excessively loud while walking around the neighborhood, you might want to try a head halter leash. Gently introduce it so your dog doesn’t protest too much. Then, when you’re out walking and he barks, you can close his mouth.
Try interrupting your dog when he starts to bark. Verbal cues may work for some, but for others, the pup’s barking can drown out their voice. If this is the case for you, try throwing a toy or using a device to make a high-pitched noise that will get your dog’s attention. The loud interruption will startle and puzzle him, and probably wasn’t the result he wanted from barking.
You can also try to redirect your dog’s behavior. When he starts to bark, give him a task that directly conflicts with the act of barking: like retrieving a toy. This task, and the reward that follows, will help break the cycle of barks and rewards.
4. Make Sure Your Pup Isn’t Bored
Some dogs bark because they’re bored. They’re simply expressing their frustration, or trying to make something happen. If you think your dog may be bored, try to challenge him with new games or toys.
There are some dog toys that can occupy them for hours. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complex! It can be as simple as filling a Kong toy with peanut butter. Your dog will be absorbed for hours trying to get the peanut butter out – and when his mouth is full, he won’t even be thinking about barking!
Training a dog to bark less takes time, and not every technique works for every dog. Give each method enough time before hopping to the next one. But, don’t give up!