A dog’s bark is as important as our ability to talk. It simply is ridiculous and absurd to expect your dog to never vocalize or bark. It is as unreasonable and absurd as expecting a kid to never ever talk. However, some dogs do have this remarkable talent for barking excessively. A lot of folks have used a variety of methods to stop their dogs from barking. Some have used the best dog bark collar, sprays, barking apps, and other stuff. However, only one method has been proven to address unwarranted barking in dogs – training. And here are the things you’ve got to know.
Learn the Cause
Even before you embark on a mission to train your hound to stop barking, it is important to realize that there are different reasons why dogs bark. And while training your dog to stop barking may work on some of these causes, it may not on others.
Dogs bark because they are territorial and they simply are protecting their family and their home. Whenever they sense something as a threat to the integrity of their territory, they will bark as a means of telling you that a threat is lurking outside.
There are also dogs that bark whenever they are afraid or anxious. Anything that can startle them or abruptly catches their attention is often enough to elicit a frantic bark.
Some will also bark because of loneliness or boredom. In these dogs, barking is their cry for companionship that they long for or the attention from their owners that they need. There are also those that bark because they simply want to play with you or are very excited to see you. Barking, in this instance, is the dog’s way of greeting you.
Now, dogs also bark to get your attention. For instance, they may want to go outside but the door is closed. They will bark to tell you to open the door for them. There are also dogs that bark as a sign of separation anxiety or even compulsion. This is often accompanied by other manifestations such as repetitive movements.
For obvious reasons, training dogs to stop barking will only work on those that bark because they are greeting you, they want your attention, or they are excited. But if the reason for your dog’s barking is fear, aggression, loneliness, or depression, know that training is not generally recommended until these behavioral issues are addressed first.
Train Your Dog to Bark on Command
Training your dog to stop barking is all about training it to bark only on command. Technically, you are going to teach your dog when to bark. We got you confused, didn’t we?
It’s like this. If you teach your dog to bark only on cue, then it will learn to temper its barking by doing so only when it receives your command. Still not clear? Let’s put it this way. If we teach a dog to bark only on cue, then it will somehow reduce the dog’s desire to bark spontaneously. And since we will be using positive reinforcement – the use of rewards – in the training, then the dog learns that if it barks without the cue, it will not receive the reward. This makes barking spontaneously less desirable than barking on cue.
Moreover, training your dog to bark on cue also teaches your dog to become more aware of what it is really doing. The general observation is that most dogs bark because it is a habit that they have already formed. With bark-on-command training you are essentially giving your pet a choice whether to bark or not.
Of course, this training is not foolproof. In fact, it is still debatable that it will work on your dog. But since it has been used and proven successful on many occasions, we’ll try to share with you anyway. Here are the steps:
- Stimulate your dog to bark. Think of any activity that would normally make your dog bark. As soon as your dog barks, mark this with a clicker. If you don’t have a training clicker, you can just say ‘YES’ to mark the event. As soon as you have ‘marked’ the event give your dog its treat. Do this several times.
- Choose a magic word which will become your command for ‘bark’. For example, you can choose ‘speak’ or any other word you would want to use. To proceed with this step, you will need to stimulate your dog to bark again. Say your magic word ‘speak’ out loud and wait for your pet to bark. If it barks, then mark with the clicker or ‘YES’ and give the treat. Keep on practicing this step a couple of times until your dog learns to associate its barking with the sound of the magic word ‘speak’.
- Wait for your dog to bark. If you have been consistent in your training, it will try to bark spontaneously. If it does, do not mark this. Wait a few seconds before issuing your ‘speak’ command. It should bark. Mark this event and give your dog its reward. So the pattern you want to observe here is to wait for your pet to bark. Ignore this. Once your dog has stopped barking, count 2 seconds and issue the ‘speak’ command. Mark and then give the reward.
What you want to teach your dog is to reduce its barking. By pausing a couple seconds of complete silence before issuing the cue the second time, your dog will learn that the second cue will bring in its reward. As such, your dog will try to shorten its first bark for the simple fact that it cannot wait for the treat that follows the second cue.
While teaching your dog to bark only on cue is important, it is equally important to teach it to stop barking. After all, it’s what we set out to do in this article. Here are the steps.
- Stimulate your dog to bark. As soon as your pet stops barking, issue a command for stop barking. You can use ‘quiet’ if you want. That’s what we’re going to use here anyway. Upon issuing the command, give your dog its reward. Practice. What you want your dog to learn is to associate ‘quiet’ with the treat.
- Get your dog to bark. While your pet is still barking, issue the ‘quiet’ command. It should stop immediately to get its treat.
Once your pet has mastered this step, try alternating the ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’ commands. Make sure to use the same tone in your commands. Don’t raise your voice especially when issuing the ‘quiet’ command while your dog is barking. Additionally, make sure that your dog is not overly excited as it can backfire.
Remember, to let your dog bark on cue, you need to let it bark, wait 2 seconds, issue the command, mark, and then reward. To stop your dog from barking, let it bark, give the cue, then the treat.
You can also make a number of variations such as cueing the bark, cueing the quiet, cueing the dog’s bark again, then marking and rewarding your dog.
Mixing and matching these commands should help your dog learn when to bark and when to stop.
Keys to Effective Training
When training your dog to bark on cue and to stop when told to do so, it is important to adhere to the following guidelines.
- Training is much easier with a calm dog. If it is restless or hyper-excited, take it out for a walk first so that it returns calmer. You can also play with it for about 15 minutes, rest for 5, before going for the training.
- Do not yell at your dog. Always issue the commands calmly, firmly, and in a tone that is consistent throughout the training session.
- Be consistent in your training. This includes the tone of your voice especially in the issuing of the commands. You don’t want to confuse your dog by being soft on the ‘speak’ cue and harsh or loud on the ‘quiet’ cue. Remember that your dog will usually respond to the tone of your voice.
- Be patient. Some dogs will usually ‘get’ what you want them to do with just one try. Unfortunately, there are also dogs that may require several passes before they eventually ‘get’ the idea.
- Invest in a good training clicker as this facilitates better consistency of marking the event. Of course, you can still use the ‘YES’ verbal marker; just make sure you maintain the tone and the manner in which you say it.
- Keep the training sessions short. It should never go beyond 10 minutes per session; otherwise, you’re risking your dog getting bored. This is especially the case in certain dog breeds that are quite intelligent.
- Always pick a nutritious treat to give as reward for your pet during the training. These should be bite-sized pieces that your dog can easily chew on.
There are really no guarantees that training your dog to stop barking will proceed as smoothly as planned. But if you adhere to these tips including our simplified training methodology, you stand a much better chance.
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