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Dog Barking - How to stop your dog from barking
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Dog Barking - How to stop your dog from barking

Dogs
Pet Psychology

Barking is one of the most troublesome behaviour problems of all dog owners. One that as a dog behaviourist I am frequently asked to solve, it is relatively easy to solve if you have the patience.Giving attention to a barking dog reinforces the habit. The dog then learns that it gets attention when it barks. Avoid accidental negative reinforcement. By giving the dog any attention even negative attention will be accepted gratefully by the dog, but won't help or solve the problem.

Why do dogs bark?

Dogs bark for any number of reasons but if you jump to their demand barking you are inadvertently reinforcing their demands, whether it is 'let me in', 'let me out', 'come and play' or just for attention. By giving in to their demands you are giving them permission to bark as and when they want.Distress barking is associated with separation anxiety. Over excited dogs are also prone to excessive barking. Lack of mental stimulation or boredom can lead to default barking behaviour. Barking for a dog is normal, it's the owners that cannot, nor should they, tolerate it.Some dogs bark when they are bored, there are toys and goods that are made for bored dogs, they can be filled with food and take your dog some time to get the food out, when they have, the object of the item is to wear the dog out, and the dog then sleeps. Sleeping dogs do not bark. Maybe an extra walk will tire your dog out so that it doesn't stay awake long enough to bark for no reason other than being bored.If you know what triggers your dog's barking try and controlling the triggers, if it barks when someone walks by your house, close the blinds or curtains so that the dog cannot see out. If it barks when left outside, don't leave it outside alone until you can control the barking. If it barks at your neighbours dog, talk to your neighbour and arrange times that the dogs are not out at the same time.All dogs bark, well 99% of them do, they whine and howl as well. it's their way of communicating either with the owner or other dogs. Incessant barking is not only annoying it also will upset you, your neighbours and any other dog in the vicinity. Barking in the wild is the dogs way of staying in touch with the pack, giving the rest of the pack instructions, directions or warnings which are ignored at the packs peril.

Why does your dog bark?

It barks for attention and to let you know something is not right.If someone knocks on your door what do you do? Do you jump up and rush to the door? This stimulates your dog and it will bark loudly and excitedly. Do you grumble at being disturbed? Again your dog will pick up on this and bark. Try getting up slowly and not make a big thing of it. If the dog thinks it's nothing exciting it will ignore the door bell or the knocker. Once it has got into this habit everytime someone knocks on your door it means you have to train the bad habit out of it. To do this get a friend or family member to go out and knock on the door, if your dog barks don't move, wait until it stops barking then get it to sit. While it is quiet get it to stay. Now get your assistant to knock again,if the dog barks, again don't move, turn away and ignore it totally. As soon as its quiet praise and treat and get it to sit. Keep this up (not necessarily all on one day) eventually you will find that your dog no longer barks when someone knocks on the door. Patience and persistence are the key. This has to be done every time someone knocks, put a sign on the door asking people to be patient as you are training your dog so they don't think you are out.Never shout at a barking dog, it will think you are joining in and will bark all the more, try distracting him if he is barking at something you cannot see, but don't praise him for barking, praise him for stopping barking. This technique will work under any circumstance providing you stick to positive reinforcement, no praise or treat for barking, lots of praise and treats for quiet.A lot of owners teach their dogs to be excessive barkers by letting their dogs get their own way by barking and getting a reaction from their owner, whether it's shouting at the dog, stopping what they are doing to attend to the dog, or just giving the dog attention. Whatever it is the dog has won and you have jncreased your problem threefold. It can be hard to wait for your dog to stop barking but you need to do it. If you win every time the dog barks then you will have won the battle and the war.If you are outside wait until the dog stops barking, the instant he stops call him to you, praise and treat. If he continues to bark, totally ignore him, turn your back, don't even look at him. Again if he is quiet praise and treat. (Treats do not have to be food, they can be the dogs favourite toy). After a few times your dog will realise that if he is quiet he gets more attention than if he barks. You might have to do this for a while but the results will be worth it. Keep doing this until you are satisfied you have the barking problem under control. It really does work. If you want your dog to bark on command, e.g. you are alone and someone calls unexpectedly teach it to 'speak' (bark). Some dogs are required to bark, these dogs need to be trained when to bark and when not to bark, which is why most guard dogs are German Shepherds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, these dogs are very easy to train.If your dog barks in a low unexcited way it is more than likely a warning so you should not ignore it, notice your dogs body language, is it alert, does it have a fixed look in it's eyes? Check it out with the dog, so that if there is nothing for you or the dog to worry about and there is no sign of danger, your dog will see this and settle down. If you leave him and go and check it yourself the dog will bark more and louder, so quietly and calmly and with the dog, go and check in the direction the dog is looking when it is barking. Don't ignore this bark, he's doing what comes naturally, protecting you.

So to recap

Do not reinforce your dogs bad behaviour by shouting, giving it attention, encouraging it or praising it for barking. Totally ignore it when it barks, turn your back, avoid eye contact and walk away. Dogs do not like to be ignored so he will do what he can to get your attention even if it means barking more or he has to stop barking. As with all dog training nothing is instant, you will need loads of patience, perseverance, love and kindness but the results are well worth all the hard work. Be prepared for it to get worse before it gets better but persevere it will get better.

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