I have a dog that barks often, and like no other dog I have ever lived with before. I am thankful that I no longer live in attached housing, because surely I might have been evicted years ago. That is assuming that neighbors don’t enjoy being alerted to people, pets, mailmen and leaves blowing by the front door. There have been countless times that I have tried to curb her barking. I have some tips that have worked for me. Understanding why your dog barks may help you curtail the behavior.
Modern dogs tend to lead relatively unstimulating lives in the domestic home. Other than eating, sleeping on the couch, and going for the occasional walk, they don’t really have much else to stimulate them. So barking often relieves boredom. Also, they bark to show excitement, anxiety, to get attention, or to sound an alarm of some sort. So, dogs that are more active, that get more physical and mental stimulation, are less likely to bark.
It is really quite normal for dogs to bark a bit when the doorbell rings or someone comes to the door. It is when this is left unchecked that the barking can get out of control. If it it indeed excessive, and prolonged (after door is opened…), there may be other reasons and solutions.
Barking for attention:
If your dog is barking at you for attention or because she wants something, ignore her until she stops. This may be difficult in the beginning, as she may bark longer and harder to get your attention. But be patient, and wait for 5 seconds of quiet and then reward that quiet with attention. Repeat as necessary. Eventually your dog will lean that barking gets her nothing, but quiet gets the attention she desires.
The excitable bark
Dogs that bark with excitement do so as a form of vocalization. It normally occurs prior to going for a walk or being fed. Dogs are highly ritualized, and this may be harder to break them of, because the cues you give prior to those activities are easily recognizable.
Try to change your cues as much as you can, and stop what you are doing when the barking starts. If your dogs barks when you go to get her leash for example, put the leash back where it was and sit down. If you are able to successfully attach the leash while she is quiet and the barking starts again as she goes outside, immediately come back in and wait for her to become quiet before going back out.
This technique also requires patience, but will pay off once your dog realizes that she gets walked if she is quiet. The same goes for feeding times. These are situations where body language speaks volumes.
Many dogs do not do well alone and suffer separation anxiety. Often they will bark, and need behavior modification to stop the behavior. Remember that they are vocalizing distress, and this is not a quick fix. You may need a trainer or veterinarian to help you with this.
Most barking, as said, can be relieved by the above tips, and offering your dog adequate exercise and stimulation. Try finding an activity or sport that your dog really enjoys. Take the breed into account. Enrich the home by hiding her toys or food around the house and encourage her to seek them out using her senses to locate them. Instead of feeding from a bowl for each meal, try activity toy feeders and puzzle feeders. Working for meals will stimulate her brain and help tire her out.
Try not to shout at a barking dog, as this can encourage the behavior even more. Another way to teach her to stop is by actually teaching her to bark. It seems contrary to logic, but if your dog is in the act of barking, first try giving her plenty of praise. Use a verbal cue, such as “bark” along with a hand signal that she will associate with barking. Once she understands the signal, you can use it to train her to stop barking. Whenever she stops barking on her own, then give her even more praise and a different vocal cue, such as “quiet” or “shush”, for eg, along with a different hand signal. The intent is to train her to stop barking on command.
Hopefully you found these tips useful and help you enjoy your dog.