Is your dog like mine? He loves to bark; he barks whenever someone delivers a package, when my neighbor mows his lawn, when utility workers arrive, when maintenance crews are working outside. He also loves to have long, barky conversations with other dogs in the neighborhood.
A certain amount of barking is healthy and acceptable, but too much is a problem. So how can I get my dog to stop barking so much?
First, understand that dogs bark to communicate. It’s their native language, so asking them to completely stop barking would be like asking you to stop talking forever.
Dogs might bark to let you know they need to go out or come in, or that they are hungry. They might be warning you about an approaching stranger. But they’ll also bark when they are bored or lonely, releasing pent up energy. And this kind of problem barking can become a bad habit.
The best way to stop a dog from barking is to figure out the reason he is barking and deal with the cause.
Is your dog socially isolated for long periods? Remember that dogs, whose ancestors were pack animals, need plenty of social time with you and your family, who they consider to be their “pack.” A dog who is left alone all day is likely to take up barking as a hobby because no one is there to control him.
Are they just bored? Do they have too much energy? Make sure they have fun things to keep them occupied, like a digging pit or special chew toys. A daily walk can do wonders for burning off extra energy and frustration.
Or they might be scared of something outside, or frustrated because a cat or squirrel is taunting them from the other side of the glass. In these cases, you may need to close the blinds or move the dog to another part of the house. Or consider installing a dog door for easy outdoor access.
For other dogs, the problem is separation anxiety – they may bark for extended periods after you leave the house. They might also become very destructive when left home alone. If your dog has serious separation anxiety issues, consider talking to an animal behaviorist.
Once you’ve removed the causes that make your dog bark, you’ll need to break the barking habit they have developed. It will take time and consistent application of training methods. Here are a few tactics to consider:
- Consistency is key: Always reprimand inappropriate barking with the same method, and always use the same command, whether that command is “no bark,” “stop barking,” or “hush.”
- Keep a soda can filled with pennies or marbles. When the dog barks inappropriately, shake the can loudly and command, “stop barking.”
- Some owners have had good luck with a spray bottle filled with water to squirt the dog in the face before giving the “no bark” command.
- Some companies sell a shock collar, designed to give a light pulse of electricity each time the dog barks, but I wouldn’t recommend them. Instead, you might consider a no-bark collar that uses citronella oil, emitting a spray every time the dog barks. It’s not harmful, but is unpleasant enough to offer a strong negative reinforcement.
- For positive reinforcement, hold up a treat when you give the “stop barking” command. Most dogs instantly stop because they can’t sniff and lick the treat while barking. After a few seconds of no barking, let the dog have the treat.
- Some trainers recommend teaching your dog to bark on command; this will help him learn how to be quieted on command as well.
- Remember that hitting a barking dog will not solve the problem. It will actually increase a dog’s anxiety and fear, which can lead to more barking.