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The reality of the matter is that dogs bark. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons such as separation anxiety, attention or boredom, but as a general note, dog owners should understand that occasional barking is not only normal and to be expected, it’s the only way canines know how to communicate vocally. Similar to a newborn baby who cries for anything and everything he wants, puppies can do the same, especially prior to being trained.
However, there are certain dogs who are prone to excessive barking throughout the day and night, which can be annoying, disruptive and frustrating for not only pup parents, but also neighbors and guests. This type of continuous barking should not be ignored, as it can develop into a bad habit which only worsens over time.
Training a dog to curb barking can be a difficult task, but with consistency, practice and patience, you will definitely see progress. By following the following do’s and don’ts, you’ll be steps closer to keeping your dog quiet and getting the barking under control.
1. Do make sure to exercise your dog frequently. A tired dog is a quiet dog. Oftentimes, dogs bark out of boredom or loneliness. To combat these common causes, offer up regular activities and playtime for your dog – a game of fetch, a trip to the dog park, a walk around the block, or if needed, an investment in agility training or cage-free doggie daycare, are all options to keep your dog active and busy. If your dog is alone for long stretches of the day, provide toys or long-lasting chew bones to keep his attention span focused.
2. Do teach your dog the command, “Quiet!” When your dog is barking, say “Quiet,” in a firm, yet calm voice. Once he stops barking, even if it’s just to pause, praise and reward him with a treat. Just be very careful not to give treats while he’s barking. It’s imperative that he associates good behavior with a reward, and that bad behavior is ignored. You can pair “Quiet” with holding a finger to your lips mimicking the “shhh” sound, as some dogs pick up sign language faster than vocal commands. Above all else, it is important not to yell or scream at your dog in anger. Besides being an unhealthy way to reprimand, shouting is counter-productive as it simulates the barking noise and many dogs will think you’re just joining in with them, rather than scolding them.
3. Do bring a barking outdoor dog indoors. For somewhat obvious reasons, dogs that bark all night should be brought inside the house. A dog barking outside in the yard can easily bother the neighbors and potentially rile up other dogs in the vicinity. When a dog is brought inside a quiet, peaceful, comfortable home with his family members, he will quickly learn to settle down and sleep. Plus, a dog sleeping close by is added protection and security for the family!
4. Do remove barking triggers from your dog’s living environment. If you notice that your dog barks out of alarm or fear, and at particular objects or environmental factors, adjust or remove those triggers. For example, if your dog continues to bark at other animals or people through a fence, consider switching to an enclosure without slats. If your dog barks whenever your doorbell rings, you may want to ask guests to knock on the door instead.
While it’s unreasonable to change life dramatically to accommodate barking, there is nothing wrong with making minor adjustments that pose little inconvenience, if they’ll bring you some peace and quiet.
5. Don’t allow the problem to continue. The longer bad behavior goes on and on, the more ingrained the conduct can become in the dog’s personality. Barking can be a pleasant form of release for dogs who bark to seek attention, communicate anxiety or fear, or even to express a desire to play. If at home training is proving ineffective, take your dog to a behavioral specialist who specializes in barking issues. Nip the problem in the bud, before it’s too late.
6. Don’t give up when your training method isn’t working. Because barking occurs for a multitude of reasons, it’s important to address the issue even when at-home or professional training methods fail. There is the rare potential that your dog is barking for a medical reason that needs veterinary attention. A health issue as minor as pain from a bee sting to something as serious as brain disease can cause excessive barking. So, if you’re ever at a complete loss, it doesn’t hurt to do your due diligence and get a thorough checkup for Fido.
7. Don’t use a shock collar, muzzle or “debark” your dog! Shock collars, which deliver painful currents to jolt your pet whenever he barks, cause harm and can make dogs aggressive if they begin to associate the person, dog or object they’re barking at with pain. Similarly, a muzzle, which is used as a means of constraint to keep a dog quiet, is a dangerous device, especially if used when the dog is unsupervised. Debarking, which is often considered an inhumane and antiquated procedure, is a surgery designed to leave dogs with a raspy bark, instead of a full bark. Complications are common and “debarking” can be life threatening. Other “bark prevention tools” such as water sprayers or noise makers to deter your dog from barking can reinforce traditional training, but should not be used as standalone training mechanisms. Rewarding your dog for good behavior is still the most effective and humane training method.