Barking is a natural canine reaction, but sometimes it can get out of hand and become a nuisance. Many owners aren’t sure how to address this annoying behavior and resort to inconsistent methods like yelling or negative reinforcement, which may stop immediate bad behavior, but are not effective long-term. Thankfully, there are several humane training and discipline approaches that are endorsed by vets and dog behaviorists alike.
Humans can’t hear sounds over 20,000 Hz, but dogs and other animals can. An ultrasonic training device in the form of a whistle, collar, repeller or trainer works by producing an annoying high-pitch sound when the dog barks. When dogs realize that the noise only occurs during barking, they’ll be deterred from continuing that behavior.
Adequate mental and physical exercise will ensure your dog doesn’t develop a barking habit out of boredom during the day. Establish a routine that includes daily walks. Additionally, encourage mind activities like dog puzzles or hide-and-seek games. If you work long hours, consider hiring a dog walker to come to your home during the day. A tired dog will appreciate the opportunity to sleep when you leave the house instead of infuriating your neighbors with incessant yapping.
Dogs will often bark to get your attention. Maybe they’re trying to tell you they’re hungry, or need to go outside. When you respond to these demands, you’re teaching your dog that they need to make noise to get their needs met. Additionally, yelling at dogs for barking only reinforces bad behavior because they’ve elicited a response from you. Instead, ignore the barking and wait until your pup quiets down to give them any attention at all. Then, positively reinforce their calm silence with praise and treats.
If barking continues for several minutes after you’ve tried to ignore it, some kind of action may be needed before the neighbors call to complain. Try distracting your pet by directing attention to something else. Open the door to the garage or make a noise that warrants investigating. Once you’ve altered your dog’s focus, give a command they know well and then reward them for obeying you.
Unless you live in a place where you don’t interact much with society, your dog needs to be a social creature. Unsocialized dogs may bark at people or other animals, scaring delivery persons and making it difficult for guests and service providers to safely enter your home. Dogs should be encouraged to have positive encounters from puppyhood. Take regular trips to the dog park, invite neighbor kids to throw the ball and say hello to the mailman as a family so your pup can become desensitized to the common visitors to your domain.
Your dog should bark when necessary to alert you to potential danger, but excessive barking shouldn’t consume your life. Regardless of the method you choose for training your dog, remember that consistency is the key to success. Help your best friend by determining the cause of distress and addressing it with compassion, love and lots of treats.