How to train your dog to stop barking without punishment. Whole Dog Journal will assist you in achieving an almost Bark-Free home.
By Pat Miller
There’s a lot of talk these days about the fact that dogs are primarily body language communicators. It’s true, they are. But as anyone who’s spent time with them knows, dogs also have a pretty well-developed ability to express themselves vocally. Dogs bark. Some bark more, some bark less, and a few don’t bark at all, but most dogs bark at least some of the time.
Why dogs bark As the owner of four dogs, two of whom are very vocal, with a third quite willing to express himself on occasion, I can testify to the domestic dog’s ability to speak. Interestingly, while wild puppies bark, wild adult dogs rarely do, at least not to the degree our canine companions do.
Canine genetics plays a large role here, of course. Over the millennia
Genetics play a role in your dog’s predisposition to barking. If she’s a hound or hound mix, you’re likely to be treated to a certain amount of baying; chihuahua owners should accept the likelihood of yapping, and so on.
that we humans have been selectively breeding dogs, we’ve purposely bred some dogs to be loud, others to be quiet.
At the “more” end of the continuum, the scent hounds are programmed to give voice to announce the presence of their quarry. Thus Beagles, Coonhounds, Foxhounds, and others in this group are quite vocal – although they do tend to bay rather than yap. Most of the herding breeds are easily incited to bark. Skilled at telling a recalcitrant sheep or cow to back off, these Type-A workaholic dogs also delight in playing the role of noisy fun police. Many of the toy breeds also have a well-deserved reputation for barkiness as do the terriers.
In the “less-barking” category, the guarding breeds tend to reserve their formidable vocalizing for serious provocation. Sight hounds also lean toward the quiet side, preferring to chase their quarry rather than bark at it. Then, of course, there’s the Basenji –a somewhat primitive African breed of dog who doesn’t bark – but he sure can scream!
Another reason wild dogs bark less than our own furry family members is that they are less likely to be subjected to environments that encourage barking, such as fenced yards with potential prey objects (skateboards, joggers, bicycles) speeding tantalizingly past just out of reach; or humans who inadvertently – or intentionally – reinforce barking.
Not all barks are alike Dogs bark for various reasons. If you want to modify your dog’s barking behavior (either decrease it or increase it) it’s helpful to know what kind of barking your dog is doing, how the behavior is being reinforced, and what to do about it.
■ Alert/alarm barking – This is the dog who saves his family from a fire, tells us that Timmy’s in the well, scares off the rapist, barks at the dogs on Animal Planet – and goes bonkers every time someone walks past on the sidewalk outside the picture window. Alarm barkers can save lives – but sometimes their judgment about what constitutes an alarm-appropriate situation can be a little faulty.
You can manage alarm barking by reducing the dog’s exposure to the inciting stimuli. Perhaps you can baby gate him out of the front room, move the sofa away from the windows so he can’t jump up and see out, or close the drapes.
Outside, you might consider putting slats in the chain link fence to cut down on his visual access to the world surrounding his yard (better yet, install a privacy fence) or put up an interior fence to block his access to the more stimulating parts of the yard. Given that alarm barking will inevitably occur, it’s also useful to teach him a positive interrupt – a cue, other than “Shut up!” that you can use to stop him in mid-bark. (See “The Positive Interrupt,” page 12.)
However, your dog might be barking because something really is wrong. Before you use that positive interrupt, take a moment to see what your dog is barking at. Perhaps your house really is on fire.
■ Demand barking – This behavior is more likely to annoy you than your neighbors, but it’s annoying nonetheless. A demand barker has learned that he can get what he wants – usually attention or treats – by telling you. It often starts as a gentle, adorable little grumble, and can quickly turn into insistent, loud barks – your dog’s way of saying, “I want it, NOW!”
Demand barking is easiest to extinguish early. The longer a dog successfully demands stuff, the more persistent he’ll be if you try to ignore him. However, ignoring him is the best answer to this behavior. No treats, no attention – not even eye contact. The instant the demand behavior starts, utter a cheerful “Oops!” and turn your back on your dog. When he’s quiet, say, “Quiet, yes!” and return your attention – and treat – to him.
Watch out for extinction bursts and behavior chains. When you’re trying to make a behavior go away by ignoring it, your dog may increase the intensity of his behavior – “I WANT IT NOW!” This is an extinction burst. If you succumb, thinking it’s not working, you reinforce the more intense behavior, and your dog is likely to get more intense, sooner, the next time. If you stick it out and wait for the barking to stop, you’re well on your way to making it go away. You have to be more persistent – and consistent – than your dog.
A behavior chain is a series of behaviors strung together. Your dog may learn to bark once or twice to get you to turn your back, say quiet, and feed him a treat. His short behavior chain is “bark – then be quiet.” To avoid this, be sure to acknowledge and reward him frequently before he even starts barking.
■ Frustration/arousal barking – Often confused with anxiety barkers, dogs who have a low tolerance for frustration will bark hysterically when they can’t get what they want.
Unlike the separation anxiety panic attack, this is simply an “I WANT IT!” style temper tantrum similar to demand barking, but with more emotion, and directed at the thing he wants, such as a cat strolling by, rather than at you.
You can use the positive interrupt to redirect a frenzy of frustration barking. If you consistently offer high value treats in the presence of frustration-causing stimuli, you can counter-condition your dog to look to you for treats when the cat strolls by (cat = yummy treats) rather than erupt into a barking fit.
■ Boredom barking – This is the dog who’s left out in the backyard all day, and maybe all night. Dogs are social creatures, and the backyard dog is lonely and bored. Boredom barking is often continuous, with a monotonous quality: “Ho hum, nothing else to do, I may as well just bark.” This is the kind of barking that’s most annoying to neighbors, and most likely to elicit a knock on your door from a friendly Animal Control officer.
The answer here is obvious, and relatively easy: Bring the dog inside. Many outdoor barkers are perfectly content to lie quietly around the house all day, waiting for you to come home, and sleep peacefully beside your bed at night.
If your dog isn’t house-safe, use crates, exercise pens, a professional dog walker (or volunteer one – you’d be amazed at how many people would like to walk a dog, but not own one!), lots of exercise, even doggie daycare to keep him out of trouble, until he earns house privileges. You can also enrich the dog’s environment, by giving him interactive toys such as food-stuffed Kong toys that keep his brain engaged and his mouth busy.
■ Stress barking – Stress barkers are fearful, anxious, or even panicked about something real or anticipated in the environment, such as the actual approach of a threat, or isolation distress/separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety (SA) is manifested in a number of behaviors, including nonstop hysterical barking and sometimes howling. This is a complex and challenging behavior both to modify and to manage, as true SA is a real panic attack in response to being left alone; the dog truly cannot control his behavior. SA usually requires the intervention of a good positive behavior consultant, and sometimes pharmaceuticals.
If your dog is barking due to stress, fear, or anxiety, consult with a qualified professional behavior counselor who uses positive modification methods, and try to manage your dog’s environment to minimize his exposure to stressors while you work on a program to counter-condition and desensitize him.
■ Play barking – This is a common behavior for herding dogs – the cheerleaders and “fun police” of the canine world. As other dogs (or humans) romp and play, the play-barker runs around the edges, barking, sometimes nipping heels.
If you’re in a location where neighbors won’t complain and the other dogs tolerate the behavior, you might just leave this one alone. With children, however, the behavior’s not appropriate, and the dog should be managed by removing him from the play area, rather than risk bites to children.
If you do want to modify play-barking behavior, use negative punishment – where the dog’s behavior makes the good stuff go away. When the barking starts, use a time-out marker such as “Oops! Too bad!” and gently remove your dog from the playground for one to three minutes. A tab – a short 6 to 12 inch leash left attached to his collar – makes this maneuver easier. Then release him to play again. Over time, as he realizes that barking ends his fun, he may start to get the idea. Or he may not – this is a pretty hardwired behavior, especially with the herding breeds. You may just resort to finding appropriate times when you allow play-barking to happen.
■ Greeting barking – “Yay, Mom’s home! Mom’s home! Mom’s home!” If your dog hails you with hellos when you return after an absence, it’s time to shift into ignore mode. Stand outside your door and wait for the cacophony to subside, then enter calmly; no rousing hug-fests or “I love you! I missed you!” sessions. When your dog is quiet, then calmly greet him. If he starts to bark again, mark the barking with an “Oops!” and ignore him again.
You’ll need that calm response when his loud greetings are directed toward arriving guests, too. If you use loud verbal reprimands you add to the chaos and arousal; your dog may even think you’re barking along with him!
Instead, use your positive interrupt to invite your dog to you, and calmly put him in another room or on a tether – then greet your visitors. You may want to tape a note to your door advising guests that you are training your dog and it may take you a moment or two to answer the door, so they don’t give up and go away.
Uncontrolled barking can be frustrating to humans. I know this all too well, with several vocal dogs in my own personal pack. However, our dogs sometimes have important and interesting things to say.
There was the time I was engrossed in writing an article and our dogs were alarm-barking ferociously. Resisting the urge just to tell them to stop, I reluctantly got up to investigate. No, the house wasn’t on fire, but I did find our horses running down the driveway toward the road.
You want some control over your dog’s voice, but don’t lose sight of the value of his vocal communications; he may be trying to tell you something important. If you ignore him you might find your horses on the highway, the house burned to the ground, or Timmy in the well.
Why do dogs bark?
Barking is one of the most common complaints of dog guardians and their neighbors, but barking is natural. It serves as a territorial warning signal to other dogs and pack members. Dogs may vocalize when separated from their pack or family members. Barking also occurs during times of indecision, anxiety, or frustration. Medical problems can also contribute to vocalization, especially in the older dog.
How can barking problems be prevented?
Socialization and habituation Get puppies used to as many new people, animals, situations and noises as possible. This will minimize the amount or intensity of alarm barking. Barking should only be allowed to alert companion guardians and then be controlled and stopped before the dog becomes agitated and out of control. Companion guardian control, training and leadership are essential.
How can I stop my dog barking when I leave?
Effective crate training techniques when your dog is first obtained, should decrease the dog's anxiety when he is left alone in his crate. Your dog should gradually be taught to spend longer periods of time away from you. Obtaining two dogs will provide company for each other and reduce distress vocalization and departure anxiety.
My dog constantly barks. What does he want?
Attention getting barking can be problematic and is often reinforced by owners giving in to their dog's demands. Allowing a barking dog indoors, or feeding, patting, praising, playing with, giving a toy, or even just going to a barking dog to try and quiet it down, are just a few examples of how a guardian may unknowingly reinforce barking. Never reward barking with any type of attention, even occasionally.
How can I train my dog to be quiet?
Training the dog to a "quiet" command is an invaluable aid for controlling undesirable barking. You must find an effective means of quieting the dog, which should be preceded with a command such as "Quiet." Just loudly telling your pet to "Be quiet," will not be understood.
One of the most practical techniques for teaching a dog to cease barking on command, is to first, be able to command the dog to begin barking on cue. Use a stimulus that will cause the dog to bark and pair it with a "bark" command. Numerous repetitions allow the dog to associate the word "bark" or "speak" with the action. Dogs that bark on command can then be taught to turn off the barking by removing the cue or stimulus, and giving a "hush" or "quiet" command just before the barking subsides. As soon as your dog is quiet, give a favored treat or reward.
It can be difficult or impractical to teach a dog to be "quiet" on command if the barking cannot be predicted or "turned on" or if it is too intense.
Another method to teach a quiet command is to wait until your dog is barking, say to a doorbell and while he is barking place a very tasty food treat by his nose. Most dogs will stop barking to sniff the treat. At the same time you must say the word you will use for quiet, such as "Silent", "Hush", etc. When the dog is quiet (as they will be because dogs cannot sniff and bark at the same time) you can praise him, say "Good, quiet" and give the treat. Again, as with all new tasks, numerous repetitions are necessary for lasting learning.
Alternately, distraction or remote punishment devices (see below) can be used to disrupt the barking. One of the most effective means of interrupting barking and ensuring quiet is a remote leash and head halter. A pull on the leash disrupts the dog and closes the mouth. Quiet behavior can then be reinforced first by releasing and then giving a reinforcer such as praise or food if the dog remains quiet.
What are my chances of correcting my dog's barking problem?
Chances are good for most barking problems. But the household situation in which the dog resides may make it extremely difficult to correct completely. Even a small amount of barking could disturb a sleeping baby, or upset neighbors, (particularly in apartments or townhouses). When trying to resolve barking problems, the motivation for the barking behavior is an important component. Some stimuli are so strong that it will be difficult to stop the barking behavior. You need sufficient time to implement the correction training.
What can I do to correct my dog's barking problem?
The treatment program must be based on the type of problem, your household, the immediacy of the situation, and the type and level of control that you require. A good behavioral history is important to determine cause, motivation and potential reinforcing stimuli for the barking behavior. Treatment plans need to consider the following:
1) Ensure that your dog is not being rewarded inadvertently. Some guardians in an attempt to calm their dog down, will actually encourage the barking by giving attention, play, food or affection.
2) Sometimes the home environment can be modified so that the dog is kept away from the stimuli (sounds and sights) that cause barking. Exposure might be minimized by confining the dog to a crate, or room away from doors and windows, or covering windows so that the dog cannot look outside. Additionally, privacy fencing may be helpful for dogs outdoors. Dogs that bark when left alone outdoors, may have to be kept indoors except when the guardian is available to supervise. Trigger sounds such as doorbells or telephones that might have become conditioned stimuli for barking should be altered to change their sound.
3) Until effective control and leadership is established, training programs are unlikely to be successful. Increasing interactive play periods and exercise, crate and confinement training, halter training and obedience classes may need to be implemented before bark control training can begin.
4) Once you have sufficient control and the dog responds to obedience commands and handling, it should be possible to train your dog to cease barking on command. Training the dog to cease barking on command can be accomplished with lure reward techniques, distraction techniques, or halter and leash training. Regardless of the technique, rewards should be given as soon as the barking stops, so that the dog learns that quiet behavior earns rewards. It is most important to associate SILENCE with the command used. Over time the behavior should be shaped so that the dog is required to stay quiet for progressively longer times, before a reward is given.
5) Once you have sufficient control with training and the quiet command, it may then be possible to begin a retraining program in the presence of the stimuli (people, other dogs) that lead to barking. Training with a head halter and leash often provides a tool for implementing the techniques safely and effectively especially indoors or when the guardian is nearby. The stimulus should first be presented to the dog from a distance (e.g. children riding bicycles on the street while the dog stands on his porch), and the dog given a quiet or sit-stay command. Although the halter and leash is generally all that is required to control the dog and achieve the appropriate response, the dog could also be disrupted using a device such as an ultrasonic trainer or shake can. Training sessions are then repeated with progressively more intense stimuli. This type of training can be effective, but progress can be slow and time consuming.
6) Pets that are barking for other reasons (fear, separation anxiety, or compulsive disorders) will require veterinary treatment for the underlying problem.
Should I punish my dog when he keeps barking?
Punishment is seldom effective in the control and correction of barking problems. Excessive levels of punishment can increase anxiety and further aggravate many forms of barking, while mild punishment merely rewards the behavior by providing attention.
What anti-barking devices are there and are they effective?
Guardian-Activated Products: These products are most useful for getting the pet's attention (disruption) during quiet command training. Ultrasonic devices (Pet AgreeTM, Easy TrainerTM), audible devices (Barker BreakerTM, rape alarms), water sprayers, or a shake can (an empty peanut or soda can with a few coins or pebbles sealed inside) are often successful. Without concurrent retraining techniques and a guardian with good control, many dogs will soon begin to ignore the devices.
Bark-Activated Products: When barking occurs in the owner's absence, bark activated products (in conjunction with environmental modification and retraining) are often the most practical means of deterring inappropriate barking. Bark-activated products may also be a better choice than guardian-activated devices, since they ensure immediate and accurate timing. Off-collar devices are useful for training the dog to cease barking in selected areas, such as near doorways or windows, (or for dogs that bark in their crate or pen). The Super Barker BreakerTM emits an audible alarm while the Yapper ZapperTM sprays a stream of water each time the dog barks.
Bark-activated collars are useful when barking does not occur in a predictable location. Audible and ultrasonic training collars are occasionally effective but they are neither sufficiently unpleasant nor consistent enough to be a reliable deterrent. The AboistopTM ABS collar emits a spray of citronella each time the dog barks and is sufficiently unpleasant to deter most dogs. Although these devices may be effective in the owner's absence, they have their most lasting effects when the owner is present to supervise and retrain. As soon as the barking ceases, the owner should redirect and encourage the dog to perform an enjoyable alternative behavior (play, tummy rub) as long as the dog remains quiet.
Products that use electronic stimulation (shock collars) are cruel and inhumane. Even shock may not deter a dog that is highly motivated to bark. Since there is the potential for injury with any shock device, these shouldn't be considered.
Most importantly, bark collars only work when they are on the dog. Most dogs will learn to distinguish when the collar is on and when it is off. When they are not wearing the collar, most dogs will bark.
Is debarking surgery effective?
Surgical debarking is drastic, cruel, barbaric, and inhumane. All attempts at behavior modification should be continued to address the underlying motivation for barking and effect a permanent solution.
A barking dog offers protection and makes an excellent burglar alarm, but you do need an on-off switch. When your dog has learned to "speak" on command you will be able not only to control its barking, but also to command it to be quiet. Once the dog knows that barking is only permitted under specific circumstances, it can be trained to bark on command, or on hearing such sounds as smoke alarms or noises outside a window. You should initially train to rewards like food and toys, using verbal praise, too.
1. Attach the dog's lead to a fence or post, and stand about 3 feet away. Tease the dog by showing it a toy, and give a food reward when it barks with frustration. Food is ready to be given at moment of barking.
2. Put the toy away (but visible to the dog), and change the reward from a food treat to a verbal "Good dog" when the dog barks, giving a food treat only occasionally.
3. Give the command "Speak" the moment the dog barks, then give the toy as a reward. Correct timing is essential here, and by observing the dog's body language you can anticipate the bark.
4. Once the dog understands the command "Speak", give the command "Quiet" when the dog is barking. Give the toy reward as soon as the dog stops barking, but put the toy away and command "No" if it continues. Do not give reward to barking dog.
5. After teaching the dog to bark or be quiet when you are near, move a short distance away from it with potential reward visible to the dog. Patiently repeat the exercise from the beginning, until the dog learns to respond to the commands.
6. Return to the dog and reward it with its favorite toy. Continue repeating the exercise until the dog consistently responds to intermittent rewards while secured to the fence. Then release the dog from the fence and continue training.
Try putting a tasty morsel of food on the dog's nose to stop it from barking. Say "Quiet" the moment it stops barking (dog cannot sniff and bark at the same time). If the dog remains silent, give the food treat.
Credit for this article came from and Humane Society Website of unknown origin. If you know where it came from please let me know!
PLEASE NOTE: There will be no refunds after the start of first class.
There is a $3.00 fee for all credit card, PayPal or Google purchase to cover thier fees.
If you present a bad check there will be a $35.00 fee for recovery.
If you miss a class, makeup classes will be available in the next session of the class. Please call ahead to make arrangements. 1 missed class per session for makeup unless otherwise arranged with trainer, 3 months allowed to complete any makeups.
We reserve the right to refuse admission to any person or Dog.
We will evaluate for possible aggression and work with you toward the goal of being able to have your dog in class if there is a problem.
There are no stated or implied guarantees, as the success of your training depends on how much work you do on your own time and how well you follow your trainer's instructions.