Dogs make great companions and pets, but even the best of dogs can start barking incessantly. There are many possible causes for incessant barking, which is problematic, irritating and, in many places, illegal. The first thing to do is find the reason behind the barking to silence them, ensure you get along with your neighbors and avoid problems.
Method 1 of 5: Controlling Order Barking
Step 1. Discontinue boosters
Asking barks, also known as "attention barks," are common and the first step to stop them is to stop giving what the dog asks for whenever he barks. Of course, such training will take time, especially if he has been "rewarded" for barking for many years.
- Try to distinguish barking caused by real needs (like doing physiological needs) from those caused by small desires (like wanting company on the couch or more attention).
- Don't give in to barking, no matter how long it lasts. Any compromise will end progress.
Step 2. Ignore the barking
This is likely the only way the dog knows how to behave. Even after the reinforcements are discontinued, it may take time to change behavior. Ignore him, but don't punish him.
- In the dog's mind, even yelling at him to stop is considered attention. Losing patience and yelling at the dog while he barks will cause him to bark more next time, as he will be conditioned to expect any kind of response (even a negative).
- When the dog is barking, don't yell, pet or give him what he wants. If possible, don't even look at it: the best strategy is to distract yourself until the animal calms down or gets tired.
Step 3. Reward good behavior
When the dog stops barking, praise and reward his silence. In time, he will learn that obeying him in silence will give better results than barking.
- Keep treats around for when the dog stops barking. Reward him as soon as possible after the desired behavior for greater effectiveness.
- Praise the animal verbally. Say "Good boy!" and have a snack.
- As the animal understands that silence is rewarded and barking is ignored, it is necessary to extend the period it needs to be quiet before receiving a treat. For example, after the initial stage of receiving a treat after stopping barking, you should wait for it to be quiet for 15 seconds before receiving the reward.
- For best results, vary how long the dog needs to be quiet before being rewarded. That way he won't know how long he has to wait and will be quiet in anticipation. For example, after a few weeks, alternate between 20 seconds, one minute and 30 seconds of silence.
Step 4. Find a substitute behavior
One of the best ways to avoid unwanted barking is to teach your dog alternative behavior. So instead of getting frustrated and irritated when you don't respond to his wishes, the animal will realize that if he wants things to go his way, he'll need to do otherwise.
- The process can be time-consuming, but ultimately it's the best way to encourage desired behavior. Instead of responding to the dog's vocal requests to play, for example, teach him to take his favorite toy to you and put it on the floor.
- It is also possible to prevent unwanted behavior by reducing the chances of these situations arising. For example, if he barks whenever something rolls under the couch, try putting on something that blocks the way to keep his toys from getting lost.
Step 5. Continue with training
Don't stop discontinuing barking for attention until you've covered all aspects of the dog's requests. In time, he will learn to wait patiently, whether he wants to play, eat, or receive affection.
Method 2 of 5: Calming Separation Anxiety
Step 1. Learn to recognize separation anxiety
Although it takes many forms in dogs, the most common signs of anxiety are house destruction and incessant barking. Such behaviors usually only arise when the owner is out of the house and, if the dog is not destructive, some owners may not even know that he is suffering. Common signs include:
- Follow you into every room, no matter how short you are away.
- Shivering, panting or crying when you get ready to go to work.
- Doing things indoors when you're alone.
- Biting objects in the house when you're alone.
- Scratching or "digging" the floor, walls or doors when alone.
- Possible complaints from neighbors about barking or howling when the dog is left alone in the house.
Step 2. Try to counter-condition the dog
Counterconditioning is a method of canine training that involves associating something fearful with a reward. In the case of separation anxiety, instead of fearing something or someone, he fears being alone. To counteract such behavior, it is necessary to train him to associate being alone with something he likes (such as snacks).
- Whenever you leave the house, leave a puzzle toy with food inside. Use something hollow that can be filled with snacks, cheese, or peanut butter to keep the dog occupied for 20 minutes, long enough for him to forget he was afraid of you leaving.
- When you get home, hide the toy so that the dog only has access to it when he is alone.
- Counterconditioning usually only works with mild cases of separation anxiety. As much as the dog likes the toy, no matter how severe the condition, some stronger approaches may be needed if he suffers from more severe anxiety.
Step 3. Desensitize the dog to loneliness
If the animal suffers from severe anxiety, the problem is unlikely to be treated overnight. Get him used to loneliness by desensitizing him to being alone and reinforcing the fact that getting ready to go out doesn't mean you're leaving him. The process is slow and requires many weeks of practice and consistency, but the long-term results should be effective.
- Work through the anxiety before departure by exposing the dog to various signs that it will leave, such as putting on a coat or picking up the keys, but without leaving the house.
- Teach him to be more comfortable alone with you indoors. Ask him to sit down or lie down and get out of the room and out of his sight.
- As the dog becomes more comfortable with you out of sight, try blocking his access to you by closing a door and extending the time you spend away from him.
- Start staying out of sight of the animal inside the bathroom or bedroom. Do not try to do this with the front door as the dog may be alarmed.
- After a few weeks, practice with your front door. If possible, use an alternative port to the one you normally use to go out to work. For example, instead of going out the front door or the garage, go out the back door.
- As time out of the dog's sight expands, incorporate counter-conditioning methods such as puzzle toys to keep him distracted. Start using them when closing the door or leaving for 10 or 20 seconds at a time.
Step 4. Be patient
Making a dog comfortable with you for an extended period requires training and patience. Most of an anxious animal's unwanted behavior will occur within the first 40 minutes of the match, and many training sessions will be needed before you can get 40 minutes off without it showing anxiety.
- Increase the absence time gradually. A rise of more than a few seconds can bother you and trigger panic reactions.
- When the dog is comfortably alone for 90 minutes, he may be able to cope with four to eight hours of solitude. In the early stages, however, it is ideal to test the dog with four hours of solitude rather than going straight into a full day of work (if possible).
- By being consistent with training and practicing a lot on weekends and throughout the week (before work and when you get home), you can comfort a dog in less than a month. As each dog is different, however, in your case training may take a little longer.
- Be patient and remember that the dog only acts this way because he loves you and fears that you will abandon him.
Step 5. Consider alternative arrangements
If your pet doesn't calm down with training and you're hearing a lot of complaints from your neighbors, you may need to try some alternative methods.
- See if you can take the dog to work (depending on location). While this is not the ideal option, many offices will accept animals as long as the circumstances are explained.
- See if a friend or family member cannot visit the dog when you are away. Many dogs only experience anxiety when they are left completely alone and having someone around can help.
- Consider enclosure training. The success of the process varies from animal to animal: some animals are afraid of being left in the outhouse, while others consider the space a safe environment, in addition to knowing that someone will come home to release them.
- Seek assistance from a trainer if all else fails. A qualified professional will know how to help you in the best possible way. Search for the best option in the region through the internet or the recommendation of a veterinarian.
Method 3 of 5: Controlling Alarm Barks
Step 1. Learn to identify alarm barks
While barking at intruders is a useful life-saving behavior, many dogs bark at people who aren't actually intruders, such as deliverymen and neighbors. Such behavior can be uncomfortable and problematic.
- Many dogs do not need visual confirmation from the intruder, barking when they hear cars or voices outside the house.
- The behavior is usually accompanied by the dog's slight leap forward with each bark.
Step 2. Teach the dog the "quiet" command
As with any training, this is a time-consuming process that requires patience and consistency. With commitment and patience, even the most territorial dog in the world is able to learn to behave better.
- When he starts barking, hold a treat in front of him to get his attention and distract him from the potential intruder.
- Wait for him to stop barking. Be patient and keep holding the treat.
- When he's calm, say "quiet" quietly but firmly, and give him the treat.
- Repeat the procedure until the dog associates the word "quiet" with silence. As soon as you succeed on ten occasions or more, start issuing the command without showing the tidbit. If he obeys you, reward him. Otherwise, show the tidbit for a few more training sessions.
- Over time, the dog will learn to be quiet without getting a treat. Despite this, it is very important to continue to verbally praise him when he stops barking.
Step 3. Put the command into use
Once the animal has learned the command in training, it must be applied in the real world. Ask a friend to slam a car door in front of your house, go through the mailbox, or walk over to the door.
- Have a treat on hand whenever your friend approaches. Even if you are past the point of giving treats during your previous training, they may still be needed in training with "real" intruders.
- When asking someone to pretend to be an intruder at the front door, it is very important that the person does not move until the animal is quiet. If he leaves during the barking, the dog may think he was responsible for the person's departure.
Method 4 of 5: Preventing Compulsive or Boredom Barking
Step 1. Recognize compulsive or boredom barking
If your dog is used to barking for no reason or because he is left alone (in the backyard, for example), he may be motivated by boredom. As much as some dogs bark because of separation anxiety, to diagnose this problem the animal must exhibit other symptoms, such as destructive behavior, do the needs done by the house and follow it. Common signs of compulsive barking or boredom include:
- Excessive and repetitive barking.
- Run around while barking or just before or after barking.
- Bark whenever he's alone (without showing the other signs of separation anxiety)
- Bark whenever you stop paying attention to him.
Step 2. Exercise the dog more
Play and physical activity are the best remedies for compulsive or boredom barking. While walking the dog is an important part of his activities (even if you have a large, fenced yard in which to let him roam), it may not be enough. Try making him run for a while (whether playing or running alongside you) or chasing a toy.
- Performing at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise a day is important to maintain the dog's physical and mental well-being and to reduce some behavioral problems.
- Try to spend more time playing with the animal every day. Play hide-and-seek or throw a chase ball.
Step 3. Teach the dog some tricks
Learning and practicing tricks is an excellent way to avoid boredom and discourage compulsive behavior. The animal needs to focus and retain lessons, which can tire it physically and mentally.
Once the dog has learned a few tricks, have him do them every day. That way he will remember what he has learned and stay busy
Step 4. Leave some distractions for the animal when leaving
Try leaving puzzle toys with peanut butter or simply spreading treats around for the dog to sniff. Another useful option is to leave a radio or television on so that the sounds distract the animal.
Method 5 of 5: Finding Ways to Reduce Barking Overall
Step 1. Meet the dog's needs
If the animal is hungry or has been left in the yard all day, it is likely to bark. No training will be able to control his need for food and comfort, so leave him with clean, fresh water at all times and serve him between two and three nutritious meals daily, as well as allowing him access to the rest of the house.
Step 2. Rule out medical problems
Some dogs may use barking to indicate they are hurt or sick. There is a good chance that the animal is suffering and it is important to get it to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Step 3. Use training methods
Teaching the "quiet" command is great for any type of problem bark, and is the only option for certain specific behavioral problems like alarm barks.
- Whenever the dog starts barking unnecessarily, distract him with a treat.
- As soon as he stops barking, issue the command "quiet" and give the treat.
- Gradually increase the time he needs to be quiet before receiving the treat. Over time, he should be quiet with just the command, without receiving any tidbits.
Step 4. Exercise it more
The practice of physical activities is a great way to get around behavioral problems. Whether your dog is anxious, territorial, or easily bored, good exercise should reduce the frequency and intensity of his problems.
Depending on the dog's age and physical abilities, you can exercise it in different ways. Long walks are good for older animals, while younger ones can have fun running with you, playing tug of war or chasing a ball
Step 5. Block what bothers the animal
If the dog starts barking whenever he sees or hears something outside the house, block his access to the things that trigger the barking. If he stays at the window barking at people, try installing a curtain so he doesn't see anything on the street. If the sounds are causing the barking, try leaving the radio on during the day to distract the animal and muffle outside sounds.
Step 6. Consult an expert
There are many professionals specializing in canine behavior: no matter what type of specialization the professional you choose, always check his qualifications and look for recommendations on the internet. If you can't find someone online, ask your trusted veterinarian to recommend a professional for your dog's needs.
- Coaches are usually certified, but this is not a rule. Some professionals present themselves as behavioral counselors and canine therapists or psychologists.
- Certified trainers typically complete rigorous training and testing so that they are qualified to work with dogs.
- Behaviorists have different titles, but you must have a degree in animal behavior to do so. In the United States, there are some specific categories for these professionals, such as the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists and the Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists.
Step 7. Use control methods
Bark collars are unpleasant for dogs and should only be used as a last resort. Many people consider such devices harmful and oppose their use. Training generates long-term solutions and works better than collars, but if it doesn't have the desired effect and your neighbors have threatened to call the police for the dog, you may need to resort to these devices.
- Citronella collars release a small jet of citronella whenever the dog barks. Studies show that they are as effective as shock collars, but do not cause real pain or discomfort to the animal.
- Ultrasonic collars emit noises that only dogs can hear. This is unpleasant for the dog, but it doesn't cause pain.
- Shock collars apply a brief electrical current to the animal when it barks. There are several settings that modify the intensity of the shock: if you need to use such a device, set it at the lowest possible intensity so as not to hurt the dog. Use such collars only as a last resort.