Barking can be helpful in many situations, like if your pup is barking because he is trying to alert you that something is wrong. But, you don’t want your dog to bark at strangers or over every single disturbance, sound, or movement that he encounters.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons ranging from wanting to get your attention to indicating they want to play. Your pup also might bark out of loneliness if he is locked in a room away from other dogs and people or when he is confined to his crate.
Dogs often bark because of stress, boredom, or even anxiety. In addition, your pup may bark because he perceives something as a threat or thinks his territory is being invaded. In this case, he is barking to defend himself. Or your dog could bark just because something catches his attention – this is called alarm barking.
Some other popular reasons your pup may bark is to greet you hello, if he is hungry ,or if he hears another dog bark. It is important to note that it is helpful to figure out why your pup is barking. This will help immensely during the training process when you are training him not to bark.
Tips for Training a Dog Not to Bark
Block Access to Windows and Doors
If your dog barks out of a territorial or defensive response, you can help prevent this behavior by closing the blinds or curtains or finding some other way to block your dog’s access to windows and doors. That way he cannot see what’s going on outside and you can prevent his ‘triggers’.
Using White Noise
You can also put music on or play the TV, so that it’s not so quiet in the house. That way if there’s a noise that normally triggers barking in your dog, it will be harder for your pup to hear it.
Eliminate The Triggers
Don’t let your dog outside during times he is more likely to bark, such as if you know your neighbor is mowing the lawn, or during the afternoon when school lets out and kids are playing outside. Eliminate the triggers or the motivation, and you will be able to curb the behavior.
Preventing barking is much easier than breaking a bad habit later. One way to help prevent barking early on, is to not yell or shout every time your dog barks.
Your dog might interpret yelling and screaming as a ‘human’ version of barking. If this is the case, your dog may start to think that you approve and continue to bark with even more fervor.
Ignore The Barking
You could try ignoring the barking altogether. A dog that never learns to connect barking with attention, means he won’t have much motivation to bark. If you do not respond or give him attention, he could even stop barking entirely.
Distract Your Pup
Another method of preventing your dog from barking is to distract him. Much like kids, sometimes distraction is the best way to interrupt and get your pup to stop an undesirable behavior. Do something that you know usually gets your dog’s attention, such as rattling a bag, or closing a pantry door.
Once you have distracted your dog, you can then redirect his attention to a desired behavior. When he does the desired behavior, reward him with a treat or praise, and spend time reinforcing a positive habit rather than focusing on the negative habit.
Exercise Is Key
You should also make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and activity, so that he doesn’t become bored. Sometimes your dog will bark to express his emotions. Keeping your pooch busy and taking him out to play often can help keep him calm and expend all of his pent-up energy.
When Your Dog Barks Outside
If your dog often barks outside, it can be a bit harder. You must interrupt his barking session and bring him inside in a way that doesn’t make the dog think his behavior is being rewarded.
When you interrupt your dog mid-bark and bring him inside, you teach him that barking while outside means it is the end of play time. This is another way to ‘remove the motivation’. If your dog barks because he gains a reward of some kind from barking, and you remove that reward, the idea is that he will no longer want to bark.
It Takes Time
New habits can take some time and effort. If your dog is used to you responding every time he barks, and you now try to ignore him to break the habit, you must stick to it and don’t react when he barks.
Your dog’s barking may even increase for a brief time, because he thinks that he is failing to get your attention. Continue to avoid responding and eventually your dog will realize that what he’s doing isn’t having the desired effect.
Reward Your Pup
When your dog ceases barking, and remains silent, only then should you reward him with a treat. By doing this often enough, your dog will begin to associate ‘being quiet’ with getting treats, instead of ‘barking’ and getting attention.
Another thing you can do to help prevent your dog from barking is to be sure to give him plenty of love and attention each day. Dogs run in packs, and love to socialize and spend time with you and your family. If you ignore your pup, neglect him, or leave him unattended, it will trigger undesirable behaviors.
Always keep in mind that being consistent in how you train your dog is how you win. If you’re silent when your dog barks one day, but yell at him on another day, your dog will become confused and won’t be able tell whether barking is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You must be clear and consistent in communicating what you want from your dog.
Keep a Diary
If you aren’t quite sure why your dog is barking, try keeping a diary. This is especially helpful if your dog appears to be barking at everything.
When you keep a diary, it can help you to see patterns of behavior that you may not otherwise notice. You can even set up a voice-activated recorder for when you are not home, so you can try to figure out patterns of barking that occur when you’re away.
More Tips on Training Your Dog Not to Bark
If you find you are not able to train your dog not to bark, you may need to make an appointment with your vet and consider behavior therapy with a professional dog trainer.
Physical ailments can make problem behaviors worse, especially if your dog suffers from vision or hearing impairment, is in pain for some reason, or suffers from dementia. If your dog barks out of fear or aggression, a vet visit may be necessary, and you may need to bring in someone qualified to help you correct the behavior.
If your dog barks due to emotional or separation anxiety, your vet may decide to give your pup a short-term medication option to help as he learns coping methods. Always remember to be consistent and follow through when you are trying to correct an issue. This includes waiting until your dog obeys completely before you go back to what you were doing.
The No-Bark Method
A no-bark command can be helpful when dogs bark because of excitement, as well as with dogs that bark for attention.
A no-bark command will not work for dogs that bark at people passing by on the street. This is because when your dog barks at people passing by, he is already being rewarded for the behavior. His reward is when the people keep walking past. A solution to this is to cover the windows with blinds or curtains and limit your dog’s ability to see outside.
Teaching Your Pup to Bark
Another proven method is to train your dog to bark. It sounds counterintuitive, but it can help especially with dogs that are simply barking out of habit. Teaching your pup to bark makes him more aware of what he is doing. It is helpful to train your pup to learn to bark on command so that you can instruct him on when to stop barking.
When you train your dog to bark as well as not to bark, you might use cues like ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’. Use treats to reward your pup when he gets it right.
If you find you can’t seem to get your dog to bark on cue, you will have to figure out his triggers and come up with a way to get him barking. When your dog barks, reward him. When he stops on command, reward him again.
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
Sometimes negative reinforcement, or a combination of positive and negative reinforcement becomes necessary. For instance, if your dog continues barking even after being told to stop, or after being given some other command, you may need to remove the motivation to bark in the first place.
For example, if your dog barks incessantly because he wants out of a room, don’t let him out while he is barking. Only let him out when he has become quiet. Keep practicing this until your pup learns that ‘being quiet’ gets him out of the room, and ‘barking’ keeps the door sealed shut.
It’s not always easy to train a dog not to bark. Your pup can be stubborn and if you fail to be consistent, he can receive mixed signals and not understand what is expected of him. But with patience, persistence, and lots of love, your dog can be a well-behaved dog that doesn’t bark.