Tame Your Barking Dog
Barking is a dog’s natural reaction to changes in his environment. If you live in the country, you soon find that you can sleep through the noise like others learn to sleep next to a train track. If the dog is really distressed, let’s say with a potential human intruder, the tone of his bark will change and you will instinctively wake up.
However, if you live in town or have other houses near by, your dog may annoy the neighbors with his noise making. There are some steps you can take to minimize the nuisance.
Some dogs bark at everything they see and hear, a characteristic that can get hate mail stuffed under your front door, a visit from the police or the threat of a lawsuit in an apartment or attached condominium development.
Some dogs will stop barking if they cannot hear or see the interlopers. So, if your pooch is an in-the-house noisemaker, put her in the kitchen or laundry room with a crate or bed, away from windows, common walls, and hallways. Turn on a radio before leaving the house. Classical music stations may work best; they have fewer disruptions by commercials. Confine your dog in the room with baby gates in the doorways, not by closing doors, so it doesn’t panic.
More often than not, the problem barker has never learned to be alone. He is accustomed to lavish attention and thinks he is the center of the world. Upon finding himself abandoned he is distraught and he barks.
If your dog barks while you’re gone because he is outside and wants inside or if he’s an outside dog and a habitual barker, change of scene could work as well. You could bring him inside the house or build a run in the basement to keep him in an area without so many distractions to bark at. The radio will help mask the sounds and confinement to a small area may help him settle down.
If your outdoor dog has been banished from the house because he is destructive, you may find that he has outgrown the destructive stage. If not, or if you are afraid to find out, a crate or a basement kennel may be the answer.
If your dog is bossy or suspicious, he may bark endlessly when you have a visitor, joggers or bicyclers go by, the kids get off the school bus on the corner, or the next door neighbor gets a UPS package or has the landscapers in the yard for three or four days – even when you are home.
A bossy dog is often easier to cure than a suspicious one because he may simply need to be reminded that he’s not in charge. It takes longer to get the message across if you have ceded your authority in any fashion, but it can be done by making the dog work for every treat and cuddle and love that he gets. He should sit or lie down or do a trick on command before getting anything he wants.
Teaching a suspicious dog to bark on command so you can then teach him to stop on command works as well. The trick here is to know what triggers the barking so you can get it started yourself, then, just before initiating the noise, saying the name of the command.
Here’s how it works. If your dog barks when someone knocks at the door, repeat "speak, speak" just before you knock on a wall or other hard surface. Tell him he’s good and give him a treat. Repeat several times a day until he understands that "speak" means bark. This process focuses his attention on you and gets him ready for the next step – teaching him to quit barking.
When you tell Rover to speak and give him his reward for doing so, follow it with "Enough" or some other word that means "knock-it-off!" Once he gets the idea that he must stop barking after the treat, you can begin to use "enough!" when he barks at real interruptions. Be sure, however, to allow him to alert you to the presence of whatever and praise him before you tell him he’s done enough.