One of the most common questions I get asked, on this blog and in my classes, is "How do I get my dog to stop barking?". And I cringe, inwardly of course (no one needs to know how much I hate this question... except now you do. Oh well.), because most people won't like to hear what I have to tell them. Barking is a difficult behavior to stop - not difficult in that's it's hard to do, just time consuming and requires the owner to be very keyed into their dog's behavior - and most of the dog owners who ask me are so far at the end of their rope that they're looking for the quickest fix possible. Sorry, training a dog not to bark takes time and a lot of patience and a change in lifestyle to a certain degree. No easy fix here.
What I fear when I tell owners how much consistent training it's going to take to fix this behavior is that they'll immediately run out and buy shock collars for their dogs. I have a very hard time with the idea of shocking a dog to train it when there are other, more humane ways of teaching a dog correct behaviors.
There is a company out there (that will not be named here) who claims they can train your dog not to bark by the use of vocal cues and body postures - and I will admit in full disclosure that I know next to nothing about these companies, having never met with them myself - but they offer a guarantee and I'm always wary of any trainer that offers a guarantee. I have a better solution, in my opinion, below.
Most of the time, a dog who barks does so out of frustration. The dog sees something he wants but can't get to it, so he starts to bark, for instance. If you'd like your dog to stop barking a good place to start is by restricting access to that which frustrates him. Is he barking while outside? Bring him inside.
I know, too simple, right? Well, maybe. There is more involved but that's one place to begin. As much as I'd love to outline for you all the ways you can help your dog to stop barking, every dog is different. What your dog is barking at may not be the reason why your neighbor's dog is barking. So, instead, I'm going to point you to a few resources that can help you.
- First, has your dog received any training? You can find a very good trainer through the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) website. Your dog needs the fundamentals before you can start getting to the tougher issues. Work with a trainer, either in classes or in your home - they both have pros and cons based on the needs of the individual dog, but they're both good options. In my opinion, every dog can benefit from training and most dogs who have already received some basic training can benefit from more.
- This booklet aptly titled "Barking" by my idol, Dr. Ian Dunbar, will change your life (actually, it's part of a larger series that I think, if you want to have a better relationship with your dog, you should invest in NOW). The booklet is short (barely 26 pages) and easy to read with simple, humane instructions on how to help your dog stop barking. I think I will make it my life's mission to preach the gospel of Dunbar.
- The HSUS has a good bit of information on why your dog barks and what you can do about it. It's worth checking out.
Dogs bark, my friends, it's part of that inherent dogness I keep talking about, but that doesn't mean we have to live with it. I have no problem telling you that I, too, have barky dogs. As a matter of fact, I stopped in the middle of writing this to go outside with my two pooches, with bait bag and clicker in hand, because I have contractors working on my home today. Contractors, as well as the UPS guy, are the bane of my dogs' existence. So while I had the perfect opportunity practically handed to me, the people that start my dogs barking in my backyard but separated by a fence (another frustration - barriers), I worked with my dogs to get them to look toward the contractors and back to me without barking. It didn't take very long with my clicker and bag full of liver treats to convince my dogs that listening to me was far more advantageous than barking at the strange men.
And let me tell you, a whole bunch of liver treats are a lot less expensive, and a lot more humane, than shocking your dog into submission.
If you have a dog training question, please email them to Dog Gone Blog [at] Yahoo [dot] com.