I’m sure you’ve lived in neighborhoods or apartment buildings where there’s a dog that loves the sound of his voice! Night, day or in between, there they are, barking away, loudly, annoyingly and forever.
Or maybe that dog belongs to you and you’ve received numerous complaints from your neighbors or the police. How can you address this problem and restore the peace to your home and neighborhood? Keep reading to learn why dogs bark and how you can modify this behavior.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Dogs bark as a form of communication and it is completely natural. Dog trainer Martin Deeley elaborates , “They may be giving a warning to another animal, sounding an alarm, playing or instigating play, joining in the excitement of the moment, demanding a reaction (even using it as a command) …fear …and the need to drive another animal or object away.”
Understand why your dog barks and you can prevent or modify their behavior.
Not all dog barking should be stopped, especially when the barking is sounding an alarm of intruders or danger. But your dog should stop barking when you tell him to. What you do want is for your dog to look to you for direction in this situation. Being able to do this however requires your dog’s complete trust that you can, and will, handle the situation.
Four Steps for Stopping Unwanted Barking
- Proper Exercise. Barking can be a way for a dog to release energy. Dogs, unlike people, must burn off pent up energy. Simply ensuring your dog gets enough exercise can often help stop nuisance barking! A tired dog is usually a happy and quiet dog.
- Ignore and Don’t Reward. If your dog barks for your attention, don’t acknowledge. Telling your dog “off” or saying “quiet” is inadvertently rewarding your dog. Try ignoring the behavior, wait a few minutes of quietness and then reward.
- Teach your Dog to “Speak.” Teaching your dog to speak – and stop – on command is an excellent way to control your dog’s barking. During this exercise, keep him leashed to distract and stop any barking. Say “speak” and then use a stimulus that elicits a bark (i.e., a doorbell ringing) or trying “barking” yourself. Trying to bark at your dog – no. Our dogs know we are not dogs and trying to mimic them is unlikely to solicit a bark from them. Say “quiet” and give a light pop of the leash to stop the barking. Noooo, say “shhhh” while you place a treat on your dogs nose (almost touching). Count to 3 while your dog sniffs the treat and then give it to him, all the while saying “shhhhh”. Repeat this exercise in brief increments throughout the day. Within no time, your dog will speak/be quiet on command.
- Socialize and Expose your Dog. Dogs normally bark at unfamiliar people, stimuli or situations. It’s their way of expressing anxiety over an unfamiliar scenario. Help your dog overcome this anxiety and fear by exposing them to a variety of dogs, people and situations. This helps desensitize them and eliminates their need to overreact (bark) at something unfamiliar. This is a great idea except most people will over expose the dog, thus making it worse. The person needs to contact a behaviorist to properly counter-condition and desensitize the dog.
Remember, barking is how your dog communicates. Learn to translate his different barks; is he warning of potential danger? Or maybe he needs to go out? By better understanding the meaning of his barking, you can better help him manage any nuisance barking and keep happy neighbors!