Ways to Stop Your Dog from Barking
Before we get into it we need to understand that Fluffy is not vocalising because he wants to offer us nuisance behaviour. Fluffy is a dog and barking is his way of verbal communication. In short, barking is Fluffy’s voice and boy does he know how to use it! The trouble is that we human don’t always take the trouble to understand what Fluffy is telling us.
Fluffy will bark for many reasons and these include (but are not limited to):
Excitement (accompanied by waggy tail, happy face and goofy dog smile)
Loneliness (sad-eyed watchfulness)
Guarding (bared teeth, growls and lunging forward)
Fear (backwards pacing, looking away, dipped head or scratching)
Frustration (fence-running, digging, chasing anything that moves, repetitive licking)
Attention Seeking (often accompanied by a quick scan to see who is watching)
Habitual (occurring at certain times or at particular locations)
Discover the reason first!
A good old-fashioned BE QUIET FLUFFY does nothing but communicate to your dog that you have no idea what he is saying – so that if Fluffy does happen to have a serious message for you inside his bark: for example 'I’m in pain, Dad’s car is five minutes away, There’s a suspicious person hanging around the back gate or even Little Timmy’s fallen down the old well shaft and he has a nasty gash on his head – you better come with me right away!' (remember Lassie?) Not only will you miss the message but, more importantly, FLUFFY WILL EVENTUALLY LEARN TO STOP TRYING TO COMMUNICATE. This often leads to the frustration bark.
Train out unwanted barking with POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT methods
Don’t be misled: positive reinforcement work does not mean reaching for the treat tin to get our Fluffy to do what we want him to do which, in this instance, is to stop barking. Positive reinforcement is training with the judicious appearance of a reward (not only treats are rewards for your dog) which gives Fluffy something he wants once he has offered the behaviour we want: in other words once Fluffy has stopped barking
Avoid the treat reward – keep Fluffy lean and keen
So if we don’t use the treats we can use other rewards Fluffy will like equally, if not more. Remember Fluffy is as individual as you are and as he is your hound you should know him best but here are some reward suggestions to start you off:
A visit to a place or person Fluffy especially likes (park, beach, ride in the car, Aunty Mary etc.)
Based on Fluffy’s likes, buy a new toy and keep it as for a ‘reward game’, putting it away once the training is over so the toy stays fresh and exciting
Train it with click work
As soon as Fluffy barks the 4-Step method is as follows:
Ask Fluffy for the cue word quiet (speak, don’t shout)
When Fluffy is quiet you simply say thank you (Fluffy must know he has offered behaviour you want
Repeat as necessary
Fluffy does not know he is offering unwanted behaviour so no amount of shouting or being angry will work. If you feel frustrated or embarrassed by his actions as can sometimes happen these emotions filter through to him and he becomes confused as he has no idea what he is doing wrong. Reward desired behaviour at every opportunity. A pat on the head, an ear scratch, a cuddle, telling him he is a good boy (or girl obviously) all of these can go a long way to show your dog he is giving you the behaviour you want and this will continue to help him make the right behavioural choices