Of course, you want your dog to bark sometimes - to let you know if there's a prowler or to let you know that someone's at the door. But what about all that nuisance barking?
Management is the first defense when dealing with excessive barking.
Prevent them from practicing the behavior by changing the environment.
Simple window film allows the dog to enjoy in his sun spot without being constantly agitated by the dog walkers and mail carriers that taunt him.
Fear & Reactivity in Adolescence
The dog who cries "wolf"...
If your dog is an excessive barker, with consistent conditioning, you may eventually eliminate a large percentage of the noise, but you will never eliminate all the barking. What you will eliminate is the unnecessary part - the part you yell at, or ignore. The part that is driving the neighbors crazy. Best of all, when your dog does bark, you will listen!
Most puppies find their voices at around 5 months of age and "problem" barking begins during early fear-imprint periods (6-8 months of age). While some breeds are naturally more vocal than others, the problem is magnified in dogs with limited socialization. Early barking is usually fear-based, not protective. The more timid or unsure the dog feels, the more noise he makes. Young adolescent dogs frequently lunge and bark at other dogs, with hackles (the ridge of hair down the dog's shoulders and spine) raised. The more hackles, the more fearful the dog actually feels. Small breeds often bark more than their larger cousins - what they lack in size, they make up for in attitude and volume! Confident dogs make very little noise. Socialization is the key.
Don't mistake early growling or barking for protectiveness.
True protectiveness rarely emerges until the dog is 18 months old, or older. Positive experiences and socialization are essential to build confidence and judgement. If you ever need your adult dog to protect you, you'll want him to feel confident - not fearful! If you encourage fear-based barking, you may actually be increasing his mistrust of anyone new.
Avoid the "it's o.k., it's alright" response.
If your dog is feeling uneasy and you start to stress because he's stressed, telling him "it's o.k, it's alright." you aren't really reassuring him. To the dog, you're worried tone of voice tells him you are worried, too. If he's to trust that everything really IS okay, he needs you to be calm and confident. Instead, be Joe Cool. Use a "don't be silly - this is great" calm and confident tone of voice. It is perfectly fine to reassure your dog and be his support system. Reward him for looking to you for direction and support.
The yard barker and door terrorist.
WHEN, AT WHAT OR WHO, WHERE AND WHY??
If your dog goes ballistic at the sound of the doorbell, he drives you nuts.
If he barks at every leaf that falls, he's driving your neighbors nuts, too ...
So how do we curb his need to tell the world he's on duty?
1. Your dog's job is to alert you -
and then turn the responsibility over to you - quietly! ALWAYS CHECK IT OUT when he barks. Really look. Then, in a matter of fact, no big deal tone, tell him, "Oh, it's just the neighbor! Never mind!" If he persists after you have checked it out, tell him what you would rather he do instead. Teach him to go to a bed or his crate when the doorbell rings and reward him generously for doing so.
2. What triggers the barking?
If it's kids walking home from school, bring him in before 3:00. If it's things he sees around the neighborhood, put up a visual barrier - a solid fence or hedge. Move him to the backyard if he's noisiest in the front. If he uses your deck or the back of your couch as a look-out, ban him from his self-appointed look-out post. He barks only when you are gone? Keep him inside when you have to leave. These environmental changes can be an instant cure for some dogs - with no other training needed!
3. Redirect the dog - change the association.
Be alert to things that trigger his barking. Before the bark starts, call your dog to you and instruct him to sit. Praise and reinforce the dog for sitting quietly. If he's alarming about the neighbor, introduce them. Give the neighbor a big box of treats and have him feed the dog every time he comes in his yard. Before long the dog will be wagging his tail, not barking at the sight of the neighbor. Once the reason for alarm is eliminated, the barking will stop.
4. Does he bark for attention? To get you to come to the door?
Bossy barking is learned. Dogs repeat what works. If he barks and you rush to let him in, he will bark whenever he wants in. If you ignore his demands, he will become more persistent - the barking will increase. If the barking increases and you do eventually respond, he will learn that persistence pays. He'll bark longer and louder. The real answer is to teach him a BETTER way to ask to be let in, like ring a bell. Sometimes simply installing a dog door so he can come in when he wants to will completely solve a barking problem.
5. Is he barking because he's bored, lonely, suffering from the heat or cold?
If so, it's not a behavior problem, it's an environmental problem. Dogs are social animals who want and need to be close to their people. Totally outdoor dogs are often the worst barkers. Dogs need play and training and to feel like part of the family. Dogs do not do well shut outside alone all day and all night. Is he bored? Does he need more exercise? Set aside time for daily walks, play frisbee, have a training session. See Intelligent Diversions and Creative Play for more ideas to keep his body and mind busy.
6. Living with the dog who likes to hear himself.
I have had the best luck with teaching an incompatible behavior (run to the house!) I teach it when there is nothing to bark at until it is so well trained that the dogs run to the kitchen for treats on the first cue. When the cue-response is so immediate and fluent that they can respond even when they are about to bark, I can call them in and thwart the barking. After a couple of months of calling them in when I hear a bark, they start to anticipate the call. They give a halfhearted cursory bark and then automatically run to the house. Things they used to get upset about now predict treats in the kitchen! This also works for doorbell barking. The sound of the doorbell can predict treats in another room.
Barking at things from inside the car:
He should ride in a crate for safety, Place a blanket over the sides so he can't see out the windows.
Put window film on the side windows so he can't see out:.
Try a Thundercap - they can work miracles for visually-overstimulated dogs: https://www.thundershirt.com/thundercap.html
Calming supplements/medications to help the stressed dog relax.
The above beautiful meme was shared on Facebook by, Lisa Mullinax, CPDT, KSA of 4Paws University in Sacramento, California.
Fence fighting or barking at the neighbors? Close the gaps! Horizontal boards were installed across the vertical boards. No view=reduced stress.
Video: John Rogerson on barking
Great article by Karen Pryor on Paired Cues - teaching "speak" and "quiet"
Great article by Diane Garrod: The Three Bark Rule
This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:
© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People - ditr_training @ hotmail.com - http://www.diamondsintheruff.com