Blog by Irene Hislop
First off, not all barking is bad. We all want our dog to bark if someone is trying to break into the house or if a loved one in another room has some kind of emergency. So it isn’t wise to train your dog to never bark. What most dog owners want is to teach their dog not to bark inappropriately and to stop barking on command.
Once you know your dog well, you’ll notice that they have different barks. You can tell by listening if your dog is barking in alarm or wants to go out or play. Our fur babies have many ways of communicating with us and with each other. Some of the most important ways are vocal. Barking, growling, howling and the like all have meaning, although sometimes the meaning is ‘I’m bored!’.
Tips to Reduce Barking
Once you understand why your dog is barking, you can address it effectively. If you shout at your dog for barking, they will see you as joining in – confirming to them that barking is appropriate. It can also make them anxious, which leads to more barking.
One tip applies to all types of excessive barking. A dog that get enough exercise and mental stimulation barks less. Take your dog for a daily walk for physical and mental exercise. Walking on your own road can also desensitize them to activities nearby, such as neighbours coming and going or children playing. At home, try rotating puzzle toys so your dog doesn’t get bored.
Dealing with Anxious Barking
Some dogs can feel overwhelmed the activity outside, especially if you aren’t home. Post and deliveries. Strangers walking by. Children kicking a ball against a wall. These can all leave dogs stressed and overly alert to every sound, sight and smell.
You can help this by playing some soft, relaxing music when you aren’t home to muffle the sounds outside. Keep curtains drawn, or shut your dog out of rooms that face the street. A post box at the front gate can prevent a post carrier from coming right up to the door and putting the post through the slot. (It can also prevent your dog from eating your mail!)
Responding to Barking
Even when our dogs bark for a good reason, we want them to stop. If your dog is barking because someone has arrived at your door, go to the dog, tell them ‘enough’ or ‘quiet’. When they stop, reward them with a treat. They’ll learn to stop barking at your command, confident you got their message.
If your dog is barking to go out and you want them to do something else, you have to teach them what to do. Some people train their dogs to ring a bell to go outside. In this scenario, the dog barks. You go to the door and tell them ‘quiet’. When they stop, you ring the bell and open the door. They will learn to associate the bell with opening the door.