One of the most common complaints about dogs from both owners and non-owners is barking. It can be loud, incessant, and ear-piercing. Even the most loving owner has found herself wondering what life would be like without their dog due to barking that just won’t quit.
The pet product industry has capitalized on this problem, selling all kinds of so-called training equipment or management tools to keep your dog quiet. They make big promises to stop barking “easily” and “for good.” Most are harsh, do not work, and/or only last a little while. For example, while a stuffed treat toy may keep your dog quiet for around a half hour (tops) as soon as it’s empty, your dog will resume his song. Likewise, e-collars only work when they are on. Forget it, and your dog will bark to his heart content. Also, if you have a multi-dog household, one of them could be corrected for another’s mistake.
In order to stop barking, you need to know the cause. Dogs do not just bark to bark very often – there is usually a self-reinforcing reason behind it. Find out what that is, and you can begin a training and management program that will actually work.
The Most Common Barks
There are a few common barks that most dog owners complain about:
Demand Barking. Demand barking is when a dog barks at you in order to get something she wants: attention, food, a toy, to go outside or on a walk, etc. It usually develops as a puppy matures and has not learned self-control yet. They get frustrated and bark. Well-meaning owners give in because it’s cute (he asked for the toy!) or “just to get him to be quiet.” In both situations, you have just reinforced your dog for demand barking and it will happen more and with greater gusto now that he knows it work.
Solution. Demand barking might be one of the easiest to get rid of, but it takes patience. Simply ignore your dog while he barks (this will be very hard to do at first, as the barking will get worse before it gets better). Then, as soon as he is quiet, give him what he wants. He will learn that barking is not how to ask for things.
Alert barking. Alert barking is when your dog at home barks at sounds and/or people that come to your house. While your dog probably feels this is her job to keep you safe, if your dog is barking at every single sound she hears, you can start to feel like you are under house arrest by your own dog.
Solution. There are several methods you can try to get your dog to curb his alert, depending on your goals. If you would like to him to bark one or twice and then stop, you can try teaching a “quiet” cue, though this can be tricky as timing is extremely important. Or, you can teach your dog a behavior such as “go to your bed” when they hear the doorbell or knocking. Then, your dog has a job to do (in this case, go your bed, lie down, and stay) instead of standing at the door and barking.
Reactive barking. Reactive barking is what dogs on leash do when theysee another dog, car, person, cat, etc. It is usually explosive, followed by lunging and sometimes growling. Some dogs also do this in their car, backyard, etc. There are many reasons a dog may react (aggression, fear, protection, etc.) and there is no way to know for sure why your dog reacts….and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that your dog does it and you need to stop it.