I know some of you are interested in this topic. Unwanted barking can be frustrating, annoying, and disruptive. The thing is that we stop this behavior in the same ways that we stop other unwanted behaviors. There are no magic wands. Humanely controlling unwanted barking requires a process. The good news is that the process is simple.
This blog entry is intended to be an overview. To keep it brief, I had to leave out many details.
Remove the Reason for Barking
When a dog practices an unwanted behavior, I first make sure that the dog has enough mental and physical exercise. Barking takes energy, and dogs tend to bark when they are bored. Good exercise can stop this problem; for some dogs, that is all required to stop unwanted barking.
Some dogs need more. The next thing that I do is to remove the reinforcer. Dogs bark for a reason. If they get what they want from barking, they learn to bark whenever they want that thing. If a dog barks for attention, then gets attention, it will bark whenever it wants attention; if it barks but does not get attention, that can stop the barking.
Remove the reason for barking. If your dog barks because it is separated from you, and you come back right away, your dog will continue to bark when separated from you. If we teach the dog that being separated from their owners is okay, and that they are fine by themselves, the barking stops. In other words, we can change how the dog thinks about things, and when we do that, they will change their behavior.
Teach Replacement Behavior to Distract Them
If our timing is good and it is easy to get our dog’s attention, we can distract them. Let’s say my dog likes to bark at other dogs she sees, but I spent the time teaching her a rock solid “watch me” command. If I see the dog first, I can ask my dog to “watch me” and maintain that until the other dog is gone. If my dog is truly watching me, she will not even see the other dog and will not bark at what she does not see.
We can teach a replacement behavior. In some cases, teaching dogs a replacement behavior will stop them from barking. Take the example above; a dog barks when they see another dog. The owner spends time developing a marker word that means the dog will get to play tug-a-war. As soon as the dog sees the other dog, the owner says the marker word, produces the toy and plays until the other dog leaves. In time your dog will see other dogs and think there’s a dog. I love tug-a-war and will look to you for play.
Simply Correct the Unwanted Behavior
Another way to stop a dog from barking is to correct the dog. For example, a dog loves to bark. The same dog hates to be squirted with water. When you KNOW that your dog intends to bark, spray the dog with water. Try not to get caught squirting the dog. You want the dog to think that a squirt of water comes from nowhere when they prepare to bark. It only happens when they are thinking about barking.
Contact Argos Dog Training
In most cases, one of these solutions will be enough to stop the dog from barking. With some dogs, you must find the proper mix of solutions to eliminate the problem. Your skill level as a dog trainer will affect your ability to execute these solutions successfully. We know how to develop your dog’s training skills and talents. Please reach out if you have questions or want to discuss this more.