Training to Reduce Excessive Barking in Dogs
People talk, cows moo, birds chirp, and dogs bark. Trying to completely eliminate a dog's barking is as unreasonable as trying to stop his tail from wagging; if that is why you are reading this right now, read no further. It is possible, though, to control excess barking so it doesn't become a nuisance to you or your neighbors.
There are a number of reasons why a dog might bark. They will bark while playing, as a display of aggression, to get attention, or just to hear themselves bark. The types of barking that can cause trouble are barking out of loneliness, boredom, frustration, or fright. A dog who is left alone all day might bark in the hope that someone will come and give him attention. They might also have stimulation like people walking by a window, children playing outside, or other animals in the neighborhood making noise that might make them bark. If a dog is triggered by the mailman walking past or another outdoor dog, try confining it to an interior room, blocking the window with heavy drapery, or even leaving a radio on while you are not at home to mask other noises or distractions.
While you are home, set a training regime for your dog just like you would to get him to sit or stay. Decide on the command you want to mean "stop barking!" It could be "stop," "quiet," "enough."â€“ just make sure you are consistent with the command you decide to use. It might even help to train your dog to bark on command so you can train him to stop on command too.
Once your dog starts barking (the unwanted behavior) wait a few seconds then immediately give your command, "Enough". Once he quiets down for even just a second, give him praise and a tasty treat. The ultimate goal is for your dog to associate quietness with a reward.
Every time he is quiet after your command, reward him with some special attention or a treat. Each time, extend the length of the silence before you reward him. Just wait a second or two at first, but gradually work up to a minute or two. By that time, whatever it was that caused the barking is usually long gone and forgotten.
Keep in mind that you are rewarding the dog for not barking, not for barking. Just like a child having a temper tantrum, dogs will bark to get attention. Just like you'd ignore the child having a tantrum to get him to stop, you want to ignore this nuisance barking. You wouldn't give in and give the child the new toy or cookie or special treat that he wanted and not expect him to use that to get whatever he wants in the future; think of your dog the same way. If a dog knows that if he barks, he gets a treat or attention or a new toy, he's going to bark until he gets it. As hard as it is, you need to teach your dog that barking does not get a reward, but quiet does. It can be hard to reward a dog for being quiet, but try to give him enough attention and exercise throughout the day that he doesn't need to search for it on his own.
There are other measures to stop barking that do not employ positive reinforcement, the preferred training method we like to recommend. These training methods should not be shortcuts or substitutes for proper one-on-one training but if the only alternative is giving the dog up to a pound or facing legal action for his behavior, they may give you additional time to train your dog properly. Anti-bark collars are available to help train a dog. Some of these collars give off a mild electrical shock that may be painful to the dog; it is difficult to tell how painful without wearing the collar yourself. Other bark collars emit a spray of water or citronella that can distract a dog enough to stop the barking. However, most of these collars can be set off by other dogs or loud sounds other than the barking of the dog you are trying to train. These accidental triggers can set back the barking training if it is not monitored and reinforced by obedience training.
Barking is as natural to dogs as digging and biting. Just like with these other "nuisance" behaviors, proper training will help you control this one. Training can be a very positive experience and exercise if done properly. You'll soon be able to tell the difference between "There's an intruder outside" and "Timmy is stuck down the well," and even eliminate "I'm bored, give me attention" and "Hey Mom, look at that squirrel!"