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10 Secrets to Stop Your St. Bernard from Barking

Written by: Arlene D.
| Published on May 8, 2023

St. Bernards are large, friendly dogs that can be prone to reactive barking, particularly when they encounter strangers or other dogs. This behavior can be frustrating for both the dog and its owner, and it can sometimes be difficult to know how to stop it. In this article, we will explore 10 different strategies that can help to reduce a St. Bernard’s reactive barking and make it a more calm and contented pet. By understanding the reasons why St. Bernards bark and implementing some simple techniques, owners can help to ensure their pet is happier and healthier.

⚠️ Note: While the tips below should get you started, its important to realize that your St. Bernard’s excessive barking is symptom of reactivity. Consider looking into an online training course that specifically addresses reactivity (we like SpiritDog’s “Tackling Reactivity course or K9 Institute’s Dog Masterclass)

1. Identify and Understand Your St. Bernard’s Triggers:

The first step to addressing reactive barking is to identify the specific triggers that cause your St. Bernard to bark. Observe your dog closely to determine what situations or stimuli provoke their barking, such as encountering other dogs, strangers approaching, or loud noises. Once you understand the triggers, you can develop a targeted plan to address the issue.

2. Desensitize Your St. Bernard to Triggers:

Desensitization is a gradual process that involves exposing your St. Bernard to its triggers at a comfortable distance, allowing them to become more accustomed to the stimulus without reacting. Over time, you can slowly decrease the distance between your dog and the trigger, always rewarding calm behavior. This process helps your dog become less reactive to the trigger, ultimately reducing their barking.

3. Use Counter-Conditioning with Your St. Bernard:

Counter-conditioning is another technique that can help change your St. Bernard’s emotional response to a trigger. By pairing the trigger with something positive, such as treats or toys, your dog can begin to associate the stimulus with a positive experience rather than fear or anxiety. Over time, this can reduce your dog’s reactive barking.

4. Use Positive Reinforcement with Your St. Bernard:

Reward your St. Bernard for remaining calm and quiet in situations where they would typically react with barking. Consistently offer praise, treats, or affection when your dog displays appropriate behavior in response to their triggers. This positive reinforcement helps your dog learn that there are better ways to cope with their triggers than barking.

5. Teach Your St. Bernard the “Quiet” Command:

Train your St. Bernard to understand and respond to the “quiet” command. When your dog starts barking in response to a trigger, calmly say “quiet” and wait for them to stop. As soon as they are silent, immediately praise and reward them. Repeat this process consistently until your dog associates the command with the desired behavior.

Related: What online dog training program does iHeartDogs recommend for reactive barking? 

6. Redirect Your St. Bernard’s Attention:

When your St. Bernard begins to bark reactively, try redirecting their attention to a more productive activity. Offer a favorite toy, initiate a training session, or engage in play to refocus their energy. This helps your dog learn that there are alternative ways to react to stimuli, rather than barking.

7. Provide Adequate Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Your St. Bernard:

A well-exercised and mentally stimulated St. Bernard is less likely to engage in reactive barking. Ensure your dog receives enough physical activity and mental stimulation daily through walks, play sessions, and interactive toys. This can help reduce pent-up energy and frustration, which can contribute to reactive barking.

8. Create a Calm Environment for Your St. Bernard:

A chaotic or noisy environment can exacerbate your St. Bernard’s reactive barking. Create a calm and quiet space for your pet, with a comfortable bed and designated area for their toys. Use calming scents, like lavender or chamomile, and soothing sounds, such as classical music or white noise, to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

9. Manage Your St. Bernard’s Environment:

While you work on addressing your St. Bernard’s reactive barking, consider managing their environment to limit exposure to triggers. This may involve using window films to obscure your dog’s view of passersby, creating a designated “safe space” for your dog to retreat to, or using baby gates to restrict access to areas with high trigger exposure. Managing your dog’s environment can help reduce their reactive barking while you work on implementing other strategies.

10. Try an Online Dog Reactivity Training Course

If your St. Bernard’s reactive barking continues despite your efforts, consider consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

2 online dog training programs we like are:

1. SpiritDog’s “Tacking Reactivity” Course

The SpiritDog Tackling Reactivity Course is an online training program designed to help dog owners address their dog’s reactive barking without the need for expensive in-person training. The course aims to help owners understand their dog’s triggers and teaches techniques to calm and accommodate reactive dogs. Developed by experienced dog trainer Steffi Trott, the program offers video lessons, instructional PDFs, quizzes, and access to trainers for support.

2. K9 Training Institute’s “Dog Masterclass”

More than just an obedience course, this more comprehensive training course tackles any behavior problem you might face with your dog.

10 Reasons Why a St. Bernard Might Be Reactive Barking

  1. Territorial behavior: St. Bernards are naturally protective of their home and family.
  2. Separation anxiety: St. Bernards are prone to becoming anxious when left alone, which can result in excessive barking.
  3. Fear: St. Bernards may bark at people or other dogs out of fear, especially if they have had negative experiences in the past.
  4. Lack of socialization: If a St. Bernard hasn’t been socialized properly, they may become reactive and bark at strangers or other dogs.
  5. Attention-seeking behavior: Some St. Bernards may bark excessively to get attention from their owners.
  6. Health issues: Pain or discomfort from health problems may cause a St. Bernard to bark more than usual.
  7. Boredom: If St. Bernard isn’t getting enough physical or mental stimulation, they may bark out of boredom.
  8. Genetic predisposition: Some St. Bernards may have a genetic tendency to bark excessively.
  9. Training issues: Inconsistent or ineffective training can lead to reactive barking in St. Bernards.
  10. Environmental factors: Loud noises or other environmental stimuli may cause a St. Bernard to bark excessively.

In conclusion, reactive barking is a common issue among many dog breeds, including St. Bernards. Addressing the root causes of reactive barking can help reduce and even eliminate this behavior. While every dog is unique, there are several strategies that can be effective for St. Bernards specifically. By understanding the reasons behind their barking, and using proven techniques, owners can help their St. Bernard become calmer and more confident, leading to a happier, more harmonious relationship between dog and owner. It is important to remember that modifying behavior takes time and patience, but with consistent effort, it is possible to stop reactive barking.

NEXT UP: Can an Online Training Course Help Stop My St. Bernard’s Barking?  

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