Monday, May 15, 2017

How To Stop Your Dog From Barking in Four (patient) Steps


Whether it's the mailman, the neighbor walking his dog by your fence or a deer in your back yard, excessive dog barking can bring anyone down to their knees in frustration. Here are four steps you can take to bring a little peace and quiet into your home:

  1. Make sure your dog is exercised. A lot of doggy mischief can be avoided by simply making sure your dog is properly exercised, mentally and physically. When your dog has extra energy, he needs to find an avenue to release it. He's bored! This results in behaviors we owners may not find endearing. By making sure your dog is getting physical and mental exercise everyday, you are releasing that pent up energy and helping your furry friend live a balanced life. 
  2.  Stay Calm. You are not helping the situation by yelling "STOOOOPPPP!!!!" or "KNOCK IT OFF!". Remember, dogs do not speak human. If you are yelling at them, all they hear is you barking along with them. They think everyone is joining in on the fun! Instead, you can...
  3. Teach them the "Quiet Command". The first steps of this training seem quite counter intuitive, but trust me, with some patience you will see where I am going with it: Step 1- When your dog barks, praise him and use the verbal cue "bark" as you give him a treat. This will allow him to start to associate the word "bark" with the action of barking. Step 2- When your dog stops barking, give him a different treat with the vocal cue "quiet". This will get him to associate the word "quiet" with the action of not barking. Step 3- Train, train, train with a lot of patience. Repetition is key. Training does not happen over night and takes a lot of diligence and patience. Only train your dog for about 15 minutes a day in 5 minute sessions. Otherwise, you risk over saturating your dog and stressing them out. Once the behavior is learned, practice it weekly in order to maintain the behavior. 
  4.  Desensitize your dog to whatever it is that is making him bark. For example, if it is the mailman, sit with your dog everyday the mailman comes and practice the quiet command while redirecting your dog to an incompatible behavior like laying on his bed or going to his kennel. 
You will notice that I didn't put in here to "remove the stimulus". Some people recommend doing things like closing the shades when people are walking by (if your dog barks at that) or bringing your dog inside if your dog barks at people walking by. I don't think that really helps all that much, because you are basically avoiding the situation instead of teaching your dog a positive behavior to associate with the situation. Plus, seriously, who wants to live their whole life with the shades down because you are afraid someone is going to walk by and your dog will start barking. That is giving your dog way too much control of the situation and leaving you kind of helpless. Instead, work with the situation. If your dog is barking at the walkers going by, sit there with your dog practicing the "quiet" command with an incompatible behavior. Or rally up your friends to purposely walk by so you can practice. It takes a lot of patience and diligence to have a furry friend in your family, but it also brings a lot of joy. Raising a canine companion will bring out a lot of positive traits in yourself that you had no idea you could foster. 

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