Dogs bark. It’s what they do. But if your dog is getting in the habit of barking excessively, you probably want to take action before your neighbors start complaining.
There can be many reasons that can trigger your dog to bark. However, the longer wait to start to training, the longer it will take for your dog to change their ways.
First things first: always remember the following things while training:
- Don’t yell at your dog to be quiet! To them, it sounds like you’re barking along with them and only works them up more.
- Keep your training sessions short, positive and upbeat.
- Be consistent. Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately. You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.
Figure out why your dog is barking
Trying to imagine what your dog is thinking is the first step to solving a lot of issues. You may not realize it at first, but your dog gets some kind of reward when they bark. Figure out what that reward is, in other words, what they get out of barking and remove it. Then, try to remove the opportunity to continue the barking behavior.
Example: Barking at people walking by
If your dog barks at people walking by, ask yourself what does the barking behavior achieve. In your dog’s mind, when they bark at someone walking by they leave. In your dog’s mind, barking equals making trespassers leave.
Desensitize your dog to the stimulus
One of the most effective strategies is to gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing them to bark. Start with the stimulus — the thing that makes them bark — and then distract them. Reward them for ignoring the stimulus with treats and praise. As they become better about ignoring the stimulus, move the stimulus a little closer. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things.
Example: Barking at other dogs
- Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won’t bark at the other dog.
- As your friend and their dog come into view, start feeding your dog treats.
- Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and their dog disappear from view.
- Repeat the process multiple times.
- Remember not to try to progress too quickly as it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.
Train your dog to perform an different behavior
When your dog begins to bark, give them a command to do something that’s different. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits them from barking, such as lying down on their bed.
Example: Someone at the door
- Toss a treat on their bed and tell them to “go to your bed.”
- When they’re reliably going to their bed to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while they’re on their bed. If they get up, close the door immediately.
- Repeat until they stay in bed while the door opens.
- Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is in bed. Reward them if they stay in place.
Keep your dog exercised
Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration.
Use an electronic device
If you have a large yard and you want your dog to have the full run of it, controlling barking may become more challenging. Barxbuddy is an ultrasonic training device that uses sound to help distract your dog. The nice part is that it uses no chemicals and doesn’t physically contact your dog like shock collars and makes a good first choice for training at a distance.
Contact a professional dog trainer
If your dog continues barking excessively or if the above tips prove unsuccessful, consider reaching out to a professional dog trainer for help.
Brenda Thompson March 26, 2023
Thank you for sharing these helpful tips on how to train a dog to stop excessive barking, Olivia. I couldn’t agree more with your statement that understanding the reason behind a dog’s barking behavior is crucial to addressing the problem effectively. It’s also essential to remember that yelling at your dog to stop barking isn’t the solution, as it only reinforces the behavior you want to eliminate. Instead, a positive and consistent approach, coupled with patience and understanding, can go a long way in modifying your dog’s behavior.
I especially appreciated your desensitization technique, which involves gradually getting your dog accustomed to the stimulus that triggers their barking behavior. Using treats and praise as a reward for good behavior is a fantastic way to reinforce positive behavior in dogs.
Overall, training a dog to stop excessive barking requires time, effort, and commitment from both the dog owner and the dog itself. But with the right approach and persistence, it’s entirely possible to overcome this behavior and foster a calm and peaceful environment for both your dog and your neighbors.