Before we get started, it’s important to understand why your dog is barking. After all, we cannot properly fix a dog barking problem, or any problem, without knowing what the actual cause is!
The reason your dog is barking is going to be fairly specific to each dog. You must ask yourself – is your dog barking out of boredom? Is your dog barking because they are scared or uncomfortable? Is the dog begging for your attention and knows that you only pay attention when they’re barking uncontrollably (e.g. being really annoying!)? Or is your dog alerting you that there is something strange going on, such as an intruder? Once you determine the trigger, you can easily use the 5 tips below to solve your dog barking problem!
Step 1: Make sure your dog isn’t bored!
This may seem like an obvious step, but it is often the root cause of all dog obedience problems. This is especially true concerning puppies. Dogs need stimulation – whether it’s from a human, another dog, a toy, or random smells outside! Dogs were bred for centuries to have a job, such as herding, hunting, or standing watch. It’s instinctual for them to be doing something 100% of the time they are awake! They need a job – or a purpose! Making sure that your dog is properly stimulated will greatly reduce the chance that they will bark when they’re not supposed to!
Giving your dog some proper toys and attention is a great way to tire them out. Even something as simple as switching your dog from a feeding bowl to a rolling feeder is a great way to encourage stimulation! Mental gymnastics, also known as training, also really tires your dog out. A simple set of sit/stays will have the same effect as 15 minutes of walking your dog outside! This is great for those cold winter days! This is a great opportunity to work on crate training your dog!
Step 2: Socialize your dog!
Some great ways to stimulate your dog are to take them for a hike (gets them exposed to a wide variety of scents), the dog park (gets them exposed to other dogs and people), or for a long, refreshing walk (gets them used to sudden noises and rapid movements). The more exposure that your dog has to various surroundings, the lower the odds are that your dog will bark at something that’s unrecognizable.
When you’re exposing your dog, it’s great to use high quality treats to take your dog’s attention off of the object and onto yourself. In addition to your dog’s crate, you are your dog’s biggest comfort. It’s also important not to overwhelm your dog with exposure all at once. Slowly introduce your dog to one new experience every time you go out. Given that you have to take your dog out multiple times per day, this will quickly add up.
The biggest thing to remember is to have patience! It will take some time, but rest assured, socialization will work and has been proven to be one of the most effective means of fixing a dog barking problem.
Step 3: Ignore your dog!
If your dog is barking to get your attention, you must learn to ignore it! When we first got our puppy, he would bark any time we weren’t paying attention to him. It was super annoying. We would keep agreeing to his request and playing with him, just so he would shut up. Little did we know that we were just encouraging his behavior by positively reinforcing his barking. After we started ignoring him, which took a couple weeks and a lot of patience, he stopped barking for attention. Now when he wants attention, he just gives our hands a simple nudge, in which we gladly give him all the attention in the world.
Often your dog will replace barking for attention with doing another action for attention. Make sure that the option that your dog replaces barking with is acceptable. If it isn’t, just ignore that too. Keep on cycling through until you and your dog finally reach a compromise!
If your dog is jumping all over the place when wanting attention, it may be best to place them in a dog playpen.
Step 4: Train your dog to bark on command!
This may seem counterintuitive to getting your dog to stop barking altogether, but in actuality, controlling your dog’s barking by making it a command is a great way to curb improper behavior. Before you begin this step, you need to identify what makes your dog bark, because we’re going to use that as a trigger.
- Give the command for your dog to bark
- Trigger the barking
- Your dog barks
- Praise the dog, give a treat
- Repeat a few times
- Now, say quiet after your dog barks
- Reward with treat when the dog stops barking
Do this for a few minutes every day for a couple of weeks, and then once every couple of weeks after that. It really works wonders. Remember to use high quality treats!
Step 5: Take your dog to class!
If you simply cannot get your dog to stop barking, it may be time to enlist a professional. Dog classes aren’t usually that expensive and can greatly help you learn how to understand your dog’s emotions so you can properly control them. The obedience trainer will also help you identify the problem and work with you to come up with solutions on how to fix the dog barking problem. When you go to class, don’t be ashamed and think that you are the worst dog owner ever because you cannot control your dog. Nearly every dog owner has been where you are before. The difference between you and them is that you’re actively working on improving the quality of life of you and your dog. Thank you for that!