Every dog owner has probably had a dog once (or more) in their life that just will not stop barking at everything and anything. Someone rings the doorbell, and the dog barks for a half an hour – even long after the visitor has left. A passersby makes a little too much noise, and the barking ensues for much longer than expected. Sometimes even a family member – who the dog has lived with for years – can cause the dog to bark incessantly just by walking downstairs or across the room. This can be a very frustrating, annoying, and sometimes unbearable phenomenon, since it seems like even a pin drop can trigger your dog to bark endlessly. Well, your dog is probably continuing to bark so much because you are making these common mistakes that most dog owners make:
- You’re Shouting At Them To Stop – It may seem like the natural thing to do when you are rebuking your dog, but yelling at them to “STOP!” or “BE QUIET!” or “SHUT UP!” is actually making matters worse. When you are raising your voice at your dog while it’s barking, you sound like you are barking along with it. Whether your dog takes your yelling as a challenge or an invitation to continue barking, any kind of shouting will just feed into the mania. Even if you are not doing it, you may have a family member who shouts from the other room to “GET THAT DOG TO STOP BARKING PLEASE!” or “SOMEONE STOP THE BARKING!” which also encourages the chaos. It may be difficult, but when your dog is barking unnecessarily, you must IGNORE the barking completely!
- You’re Acknowledging Them – If your dog is barking its head off, you should not acknowledge their presence in any way. So that means no rebuking (which we’ve already discussed), no touching, and no eye contact either. This may seem frustrating to you because you feel like you “can’t stop” the barking – but it will actually help in the long run if you stay consistent. By ignoring your dog completely, it will eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) that it is not getting rewarded with the attention it desires and therefore stop barking. It definitely takes a commitment to not react to the outrageously loud, piercing barks of your dog; but if you stick to it, you’ll be rewarded in the end! Whenever your dog barks, ignore them until they are quiet and reward them with a treat – even if they only stop for a second. If you do this many times, your dog will eventually realize it’s a good thing when they are not barking!
- You’re Not Removing the Stimulus – Now, think for a moment and ask yourself why your dog is barking. The most common answer is usually that someone comes to the door and either knocks or rings the doorbell. Well, if the stimulus in the situation (in this case the “stranger”) is still at your house, then of course your dog is going to keep barking. If you ignore them, and take the “stranger” into a different room, or leave the house and go somewhere, then the causation for the barking will be out of their sight. Sometimes, the barking can persist even when you are out of sight – especially if the dog can hear you and the “stranger” talking – but eventually they will stop. If your dog seems to bark at everything including pedestrians walking by or children riding bikes past your house, then you can move your dog to another room – without saying a word and without making any eye contact – as quickly as possible.
- You’re Avoiding “Barkworthy” Situations – Obviously if your dog barks at other dogs, people, cars, animals, etc. you are going to have the inclination to avoid all of the things he or she barks at altogether. Well, much like people with phobias and anxieties, avoiding bark-inducing situations and things is not helpful. Instead, if you keep exposing your dog to the stimuli, it will eventually become desensitized to it and not bark anymore. This may seem like it could possibly take forever, but if you maintain composure and follow the rest of the steps on this list, it will be a gradual decrease in how much barking occurs. Another helpful way is to use treats in order to reward your dog at the moments that they are silent and being exposed to the stimuli, until they connect the dots that silence = treats = good thing = happy owner!
- You’re Not Using Distracting Commands – This may seem like it goes against the “don’t acknowledge the barking” rule, but it actually isn’t; if you use an established command that you trained your dog to follow, it is distracting your dog rather than encouraging it to continue barking. It is ideal to train your dog the “quiet” command, but it can be quite tricky and doesn’t guarantee instant silence (especially if the stimuli is still in sight). If you can’t teach your dog the “quiet” command, then use a different command that will make your dog unable to continue barking. Telling them to “go lay down” or “go in your crate” or some similar activity will distract them and they will (hopefully) follow your command and stop barking since it coincides with what they’re doing. Of course, your dog has to already be well-trained in this command otherwise it will be ineffective; if you attempt to teach the command while he’s already barking, it will be too confusing.
- You’re Not Exercising Your Dog Enough – Sometimes incessant barking is the result of the dog having too much pent-up energy that they are releasing in the only way they can. While many people think their dogs are getting enough exercise, they are usually wrong. Due to our busy lifestyles, we may think that a 10 minute walk is sufficient for exercising your pup; and while that may be true in some instances, it usually isn’t. All dogs should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, in the form of walking or playing. Larger dogs, especially working-breed dogs should get between 1 and 2 hours of exercise. If your dog is properly tired out, then it will be less likely to bark because it will have their excess energy expended from physical activity – or they will be sleeping!
It is crucial that you employ all of these methods when attempting to train your dog to stop barking, otherwise you won’t be making any progress. Consistency is the most important thing when training your dog, especially when trying to break a bad habit that they have developed and maintained over a long period of time. If you are halfheartedly “trying out” these methods and not sticking to the plan, then progress will be slow or nonexistent, causing you to abandon it altogether and just “deal with” the barking problem. Stay focused and don’t feel guilty about being authoritative with your dog – training helps everyone involved, not just you. Just imagine all of the anxiety/stress that you and your dog will be free of once you both live a bark-free life!