Chronic Barking

Can You Make Me Stop?

It is important to first understand why dogs bark. Our trusted companions often bark to alert us to neighborhood sounds, children playing, sirens or cars driving by our homes. A dog that feels lonely or afraid will bark out of frustration. New dogs are often showered with attention when they first get home and when this stops, the barking is a way of expressing the dogs need for more attention. Probably the most important and useful bark is the one that indicates your dog needs to go outside – “Good Puppy”  Then consider that breeds such as terriers, Yorkies,beagles and dachsunds were developed with the intention of their barking being an inherited trait. It’s hard to compete with Mother Nature in these incidences. Couple that with the fact that many smaller dogs live in apartments and you have a problem that will keep you and  your neighbors up.
Before we discuss what to do with your barking Fido, let’s cover what you shouldn’t do. Yelling at your dog, using a shock collar designed to control barking or squirting your dog with water are punishment tactics that rarely work. Other behaviors to avoid are petting your dog to calm him or yelling “no,no,no” which can sound like “go,go,go”.  These tactic are  actually rewarding the behavior and making it more difficult to control.
Here are some techniques that have been shown to work:
Teach your dog the game “Focus” .   Start in a distraction-free zone of your home with just you and your dog. Call his name and wait for him to look at you and then sit.   Give your dog a treat. Repeat this behavior while you are walking through your home. Each time you call the dog’s name, he follows you then stops to sit, reward him with a treat. Once he has learned the connection- I focus, I get treat- you can use it when a car passes by, or children are playing loudly outside.
Use a shout-out. If you have an outside barker, begin by going outside with your dog each time you let him out . When he barks, call him inside. Repeat this over and over.  Your dog learns through repetition and he will quickly realize that barking will seriously limit his outside time.
Bark on cue. If you teach your dog to bark on command, you will have an on/off switch that will control the barking. Start with your dog sitting in front of you and show him the treat. Wait patiently as your dog attempts ways to get the treat. When he makes any sound, give him the treat. Repeat this many times and soon your dog will bark for the treat.  Use this same process to teach the “quiet” command. When the dog is barking, wait for a quiet moment, say “quiet” and give him the treat. Repetition and consistency are key in teaching new tricks, so don’t give up.
Ignore the behavior. Dogs hate to be ignored. This goes back to basic instinct and pack behavior. When your dog barks, leave the room. This exercise will need to be repeated several times for your pup to learn that barking makes you leave and quiet brings you back.
Separation anxiety presents it’s own issues when dealing with a barking dog. These dogs require a combination of techniques to teach them appropriate behavior. They need to learn more independent behavior, such as lying quietly on their bed.  They may need some kind of medication to calm them. This should be done under the supervision of your vet .  And you may need to  practice redirecting the dog’s attention to a favorite toy.
Owning a happy, well- adjusted dog is the desire of nearly all dog owners. Some of them just take a little more TLC to get the job done. However, the years of companionship and unconditional love you get from your dog more than make up for the time you spend training them to be happy members of your family.