What Can I Do To Keep My Dog From Barking So Much?
By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President
Every week, I invite Voyce blog readers to submit any questions or comments they have about health or behavioral concerns. Because of the great response, each month I address at least one question in more detail.
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What can I do to keep my dog from barking? He’s a 5-year-old terrier mix and it seems like he barks at everything: people walking by, car doors, strange noises. I live in an apartment and I’m afraid that he’s disturbing the neighbors while I’m away at work, too.
Barking is a natural behavior for dogs. It’s one way for them to communicate with us and with others. Just as it would be impossible for most of us to quit speaking, it’s unrealistic to expect a dog to stop barking entirely.
However, there are some steps you can take to curb your dog’s barking and keep your neighbors happy.
First, try to determine why he’s barking. Dogs bark for many reasons including protection, fear, anxiety, loneliness, boredom and the need for attention. Uncovering the cause of the barking will help you better address it.
Start by noting the times and circumstances that set your dog off. Talk to your neighbors to see if they’d be willing to do the same while you’re away. (This has the added benefit of letting them know that you’re working to address the issue.) If your pup has a Voyce Wellness Monitor, record this information in the notes section of the Management Center. This format will help you more easily pinpoint trends.
Once you’ve narrowed down the potential cause(s), here are some steps you can take to begin changing the behavior:
Remove or Reduce Triggers
Does your dog try to protect your home by barking at people walking by? Block his view by closing the blinds or drapes. Is he bored while you’re at work all day? Leave an interactive toy or hire a pet sitter to take him for a long walk in the middle of the day and tire him out.
Yelling at your dog to be quiet is counterproductive. After all, unless you’ve trained him to settle down using a specific command, your dog may think that you’re just joining him in his barking.
Teach the “Quiet” Command
Rather than telling your dog what you don’t want them to do (“no” or “stop”), it’s generally more effective to replace one behavior with another. Training your dog to be quiet on command is fairly easy and tells him exactly what you expect him to do.
When your dog barks, say “Quiet” and reward him with a treat and praise if he stops barking. If he’s too wound up, place a treat in front of his nose and as soon as he quits barking, say “quiet” and give him the treat. Although it may seem like you’re rewarding the barking, you’re actually rewarding a separate, more desirable behavior.
Work on Desensitization
Desensitization is the process of changing your dog’s behavior by changing the way he feels about a certain trigger. For example, if he barks when he hears the doorbell, it may be because he’s sounding an alarm and trying to protect the home. Work on turning the doorbell into something less stressful.
Ring your doorbell once (or have a friend do it) and then immediately give him a treat before he begins barking. With some patience, he’ll eventually look to you for a treat (quietly) whenever he hears the chime.
Visit the Vet
If, despite your best efforts, you are unable to reduce your pup’s barking, it may be time for a check-up. Certain medical conditions like a loss of sight or hearing can lead to excessive barking. If it’s due to anxiety, your vet may be able to prescribe something to calm him while you continue to work on desensitization and behavior modification.