Volume Control: How to Stop Your Dog from Barking
Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs. A quick yap or a loving woof can go a long way toward helping you understand your furry friend. However, excessive barking can be a serious issue for both you and your neighbors. Here’s what you need to know about breaking these habits and how you can stop unwanted barking.
3 Reasons Why Dogs Bark
Before you train your dog not to bark, it’s important to understand that barking itself is not inherently bad. There are plenty of good reasons why your buddy may bark, whether he’s happy to see you or is revved up from a good game of fetch. Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine if your dog is simply expressing himself or if his communication is a bit excessive.
If you feel like your dog is barking way more than he should, the first step is to try and understand why your dog is barking. Various motivations can impact how to try and problem solve this behavior. According to Professional Animal Trainer and TV Show Host Joel Silverman, there are three main motivations for barking:
There are a couple reasons why it’s important to understand your dog’s motivation to bark. First, it will help you know which route to take to problem solve his excessive barking. Second, certain motivations may need professional assistance. Excitement and fear are very natural motivations for barking. Whether your buddy barks because he’s about to be fed or a stranger is approaching, you can handle the process yourself.
Unfortunately, barks caused by aggression are a different story. While a dog barking at an unwanted visitor may be fine, it’s not okay for a dog to cry out because he’s overly defensive while on a leash. Other dogs may start resource guarding, which could lead them to bark and be aggressive when people walk near their food or other objects. Regardless of the reason, Silverman suggests turning to an expert to help stop such aggressive behaviors.
“If your dog is barking out of aggression, it’s really important to bring in a professional who deals with aggression,” Silverman says. “You want someone who spends his or her living dealing with aggression and have worked with dogs.”
How to Prevent Excessive Barking
While aggression may require professional assistance, there are three potential methods you can take to deal with excessive barking caused by excitement or fear:
In short, prevention is the process of not giving your dog the opportunity to be in a situation where he would bark. For example, a Jack Russell Terrier may stand on the back of a couch to look out the window and bark at people. If you don’t give him the opportunity to stand on that couch, he won’t be able to see the random pedestrians that cause him to yell.
There are a few ways to help practice prevention. In the case of the Jack Russell, it could be as simple as moving the couch or closing the door to that room so the dog can’t see out that window. Crate training is also a viable option to prevent behaviors when you’re not at home.
While the goal of prevention is to not give the dog the opportunity to bark, redirection involves teaching your dog to focus on something else instead of what causes him to bark. For example, your dog may have a habit of barking at people who walk or run by you when he’s on a leash. In this instance, you’d want to use something to attract his attention, like a Bil-Jac Dog Treat, and reward the dog right before your furry friend starts barking.
“If you know your dog will get scared, verbally get his attention and let him focus on the treat,” Silverman explains. “It’s all about preparing for that situation and redirecting his focus before he barks. If he gets afraid, barks, and then you reward him, you’re rewarding him for barking, so you need to be quick.”
After enough redirection, your dog will begin to associate that initial trigger – whether it’s a random person, feeding time, or something else – with the reward. Redirection also works very well with preventative training so that you can help limit your dog’s urge to bark for when you’re both with your furry friend and away from him.
Another method to stop excessive barking is to find another way to interrupt the behavior. As with other bad behaviors, letting your dog complete the behavior is reinforcement because the action itself is a reward.
“There are times when what you’re using to redirect the dog is not greater than the dog’s desire to bark out of fear or excitement,” Silverman says. “You need to find a way to interrupt behaviors to correct him when he starts to bark.”
The way you can do this is to put a leash on the dog’s collar ahead of certain situations where he may bark. For example, if a dog gets excited when people come over, you can put the dog on a leash before you open the door. Now you have control over the situation. If redirection doesn’t work, you can gently pull the dog back and say “no” or “quiet” if your dog were to bark.
Besting Bad Barking Behaviors with Your Buddy
A nice bark every now and again is fine, but it’s important that you and your dog work together to make sure he understands that a little peace and quiet is a good thing. Want to learn about other ways you can help train and support your furry friend? Join our Best Friends Club today to receive our exclusive email newsletter full of educational articles and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac dog food, treats, and other products.