Let’s face it – dogs bark. Some dogs bark for good reason and some do for apparently little or no reason and some do a little of both. Of course there are also certain breeds that are more prone to barking than others. The dog problem is not always the barking but the need for dogs to be quiet at certain times or when asked.
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. They may be giving a warning to another animal, sounding an alarm, playing or instigating play, joining in the excitement of the moment, demanding a reaction (even using it as a command), doing it on command, out of fear and the need to drive another animal or object away, and sometimes dogs bark just for the sake of barking. On occasion it can be a combination of any of these. When puppies bark it can be insecurity after leaving the pack.
We don’t necessarily want to stop dog barking though, especially when the barking is an alarm alerting us to danger, or perhaps warding off an intruder. But we do want to stop dog barking when we ask them to, and we don’t want them to bark if there is no reason. Some dogs will bark at the slightest noise, disturbance or movement. Often, although barking could be in the breed’s instinct, the owner has unknowingly reinforced the behavior. If we shout at the dog that is barking he may think we are joining in. If we tell him gently to be quiet or give him affection, he may mistakenly think we like it and sees this calm voice as praise for barking.
To stop dog barking we can do a variety of actions. One way is through closing his mouth. If you have a dog that will bark and ‘sport’ at people or other animals a head halter, such as a Gentle Leader that enables you to close his mouth and guide him into an acceptable behavior is a big advantage. Introduce the halter so your dog accepts it willingly and, when an unwanted bark happens, lift the leash so the dog’s mouth closes and he is guided into a sit. Now move again and change your direction creating attention to you as you move elsewhere. So, we stop dog barking, we gain attention and we redirect to an acceptable behavior in one simple step. Another way to keep the mouth closed is to encourage your dog to bring a “present” to a guest or someone in your home, or to simply to encourage him to enjoy carrying objects. Dogs that enjoy retrieving will often pick up a toy and carry it around just to show their pleasure. Naturally dogs cannot bark when they are holding a toy. But be careful not to give the toy when dog barking is in progress or the dog could mistake the toy as a reward for barking.
Another approach that can work is to teach your dog to bark on command, or “speak,” and then command him to be quiet. If you use treats or even verbal praise – do wait a few seconds after dog has finished barking before rewarding him. What you don’t want him to think is that he is being rewarded for barking when really he is being rewarded for being quiet. To get him to bark initially you can have someone ring your doorbell or you can encourage him to bark by “barking” yourself. Have him on a leash during the exercise so that you can distract and stop the barking with a light pop of the leash. To make the response even better teach your dog that he can bark at the doorbell but then must be quiet and go to a place near the door where he can watch who is at the door and allow them to come in. This can give a very effective security touch to a home. Dog barks, owners says “Quiet,” and he stops barking, showing he is under control. When the door is opened he is sat watching and waiting for anything that could be a threat. One word – “Speak” – has him barking again. So by teaching the commands – “Speak,” “Quiet,” and “Place,” – you have a dog that is both under control, yet ready to give a warning or even threaten if required.