One of the most annoying behaviors with some dogs and puppies is constant barking. How many times have you been ready to give up or felt like you're going nuts because you can't seem to get your puppy or dog to stop barking? With a little training, love, and patience, this frustrating behavior can be reduced or eliminated.
Dogs bark for many reasons: boredom, alert/warning, attention-seeking, loneliness, and more. Sometimes barking becomes a learned behavior because owners mistakenly reward their dog with attention or treats in an effort to soothe their dog. No matter the situation, the worst thing you can do is to yell at your puppy when he is barking. Why? Because your puppy will think you are “barking" too and it just reinforces his behavior. He will only bark more. Fun, huh?
How to Teach Your Puppy to Stop Alarm-Barking at the Door
For this training technique you will need a partner and small spray bottle filled with a mixture of half water and half vinegar or lemon juice, or else a “penny can" (a soda can with a dozen pennies in it and the opening taped shut). Have your partner stand outside your closed front door and ring the bell. As soon as your dog starts barking, spray him in the mouth (be careful to avoid his eyes) or shake the can close to him to startle him and say “quiet. " Put your puppy on a “sit" behind you then open the door. Do this a couple times a day, and repeat the next day and the next until you can get your dog to stop barking with a simple command: “quiet. "
Another effective training solution is to use rewards and praise. Start with a partner at the front door and have them knock or ring the bell. When your puppy barks at the door, make a sound to distract him from the door and look at you. If he stops barking, say “quiet, " or “enough" (pick a word and be consistent). Give him a reward and praise. If he doesn't stop barking, put that yummy treat right under his nose. When he stops barking for a couple seconds, say “quiet. " Wait a few more seconds and if he is still quiet, give him the treat and say “good dog. " There are two critical points: be sure to only reward your dog when he is quiet, and only use your command ("quiet" or “enough") when he is not barking. This way he will learn to associate the word with being quiet. Once he does, that one-word command is all you should need to stop him from barking.
What to Do If Your Dog Barks at Everything
When you dog barks at walkers passing by, the mail truck, a bike rider, etc. , in his mind he barks and they go away. He did his job. We know the person or auto was just passing by, but your dog thinks it's his barking that drove them away and he successfully defended his territory. This behavior can sometime be stopped by preventing your dog from getting a view to the street, either from the yard or his favorite window inside the house. But usually you need to do more than that. Using the “quiet" or “enough" training mentioned above is often a good approach.
Many dogs also bark out of boredom. If you have a boredom barker, avoid leaving your dog alone for long periods of time, especially outside. This reinforces territorial behavior, and leads to boredom. Plenty of exercise, attention, and playtime can go a long way in making sure your puppy has the proper outlet to help release his excess energy.
What if You Have an Attention or Protest Barker
If your puppy barks to try to get your attention try to ignore it. Don't make eye contact or say anything. If you look at him or yell at him, you are giving him attention, which is just what he wants. If this doesn't work, try squirting a water pistol at him as soon as he starts barking (don't let him see where it's coming from), clap loudly, blow a noisemaker, or make a sharp, silly sound to start him. Another technique is to simply get your dog to lie down. When my dog starts barking at me for attention, I put her on a “down" and a “stay. " Dogs don't bark much when lying down and this usually works for me.
To help curb barking in protest because you have to leave him to go to work, the store, etc. , try what I do: when I am ready to go out the door I give my dog a small treat and say “I'll be right back. " She is so attuned to this now, she is already in a “sit" for her treat when she sees me get my purse and keys. I never have a problem with her barking or getting upset because I am leaving. I also leave the radio on, tuned to soothing music, and make sure she has some safe toys available.
Try a Citronella Collar
If you are really at your wits end with a chronic barker, you may want to try a citronella collar. Some people find these very effective in curbing constant barkers. This collar emits a harmless spray of citronella toward your dog's muzzle as a correction for continual barking. They are available at most pet stores and online pet supply sites.
Controlling inappropriate barking requires on-going training using consistency, praise, and rewards. But it will be well worth the effort to maintain peace in your house, as well as with your neighbors.
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