There are few sounds that can grate on the ears worse than a yappy dog that will not stop barking. If you’ve ever felt the desire to rip out your own hair because of your pet’s constant barking, here are some things that you should do.
Keep in mind that surgery to the vocal chords of dogs should never be considered as an option, although others may suggest it. Follow these others steps instead to get rid of your barking dog problem!
1. Find the Root Cause of Barking.
While it may seem that your dog is barking for no reason, there is likely a cause to your pooch’s piercing performance. Take a hard look at your dog’s environment and put yourself in the mindset of an animal. Is there something distracting, scary, or exciting going on?
Some common reasons to your dog’s barking can include: strange noises in the building or outside, pedestrians passing by, or other animals in your dog’s “territory,” as in your home or backyard.
Once you’ve found what is triggering your dog to start his barking, you can work to remove it or modify your dog’s behaviour to the given stimulus.
2. Ignore the Barking.
This is a trick that will work for some barking problems, but not all. While it may be difficult, you need to completely ignore your dog when they are barking. A dog often barks as a means to get your attention and if you respond by giving attention to your dog, you reinforce that barking works. Just like a child, your dog will quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, so if you ignore the barking, you remove the dog’s incentive to bark.
Keep in mind, one of the worse responses to barking is to yell at your dog. A dog might perceive this as a challenge, a game, or validation that they are doing the right thing. As smart as your dog may be, it likely doesn’t understand the context or meaning behind a lot of the things that you may shout!
3. Modify the Barking Behaviour.
In order to modify an animal’s behaviour, you need to provide them with an incentive to do so. For example, if you want your dog to stop playing with your shoe, you can instead give him a more fun toy to play with. Any behaviour has the potential to be modified, you just need to find the right motivation.
To modify a barking behaviour, you need to introduce the barking stimulus and then give your dog a reason not to bark. This may take some time, effort, and commitment, but any dog can learn what is acceptable and what is not. Just like training any behaviour, you need to reward the dog when it performs the desired behaviour. This is called positive reinforcement.
If you have a dog that barks when placed in a crate, you need to reward them when they are not barking and ignore them when they do. To do this, place the dog in the crate, turn your back and let them bark. When they stop, turn around, and give them a treat with a, “Good girl!” (or a “Good Boy,” of course!)
Turn back around and repeat. Eventually, the dog will learn that when they are quiet they will get food. Then you can start to lengthen the time of quiet it takes to get a treat.
4. Training Aids to Stop Barking.
To stop your dog from barking, you may need to take a trip to the pet store to get some training aids to make your life better.
You will need to have rewards for the good, quiet behaviour such as low calorie treats for training rewards, or toys. It is important not to use treats that are too tasty or energy dense, otherwise your dog may decide it would rather only eat those and not their regular food! If you have a highly food-motivated dog, you may even be able to use single kibbles of your dog’s usual food as the treats.
Be wary of products that claim to stop barking behaviour. There are products that clip to the dog’s collar and provide a spray or a shock that is uncomfortable for the dog. This is a negative reinforcement training technique and it often does not work for behaviours that occur as a result of fear or frustration. If your dog barks because he’s frustrated, do you really expect a negative stimulus to make him calm down? These types of training aids can often make the problem worse.
5. Teach the “Quiet” Command.
A very effective command to teach your dog, which should be as common as the “come”, “sit”, or “stay” commands, is the “quiet” command. Keep in mind that this command may take more time to teach than the other commands because you need to wait until your dog starts barking. This works best when your dog is in a continuous barking loop because it will help your dog identify what it is doing wrong.
When your dog is barking nonstop, stand quietly for a few moments, then firmly say “quiet.” The dog will likely stop because they are curious as to what the command means. Reward the dog when they stop barking. It helps if the dog starts barking again immediately after, then you can repeat the “quiet” command and reward them again. If done right, the dog will quickly realize that “quiet” means that they need to stop barking and then they get a treat.
6. Keep Your Dog Mentally Stimulated.
To stop your dog’s barking it is also useful to dig down deeper to the cause of the barking problem. Is your dog barking because he is simply bored? This could well be the case. Many breeds, especially working breeds, need stimulation in order to feel satisfied.
Your dog may be letting you know that he’s bored and needs something to occupy his mind. It’s easy to forget that the end of your day when you get home from work is the beginning of your dog’s day, so take him out for a walk, play some fetch, or teach him some new things. There’s nothing more frustrating for a dog than having pent up energy with nothing to do!
7. Surgery Should NOT be an Option.
You may have heard through a friend or through an online resource that you can stop a dog’s barking with surgery that damages the vocal chords. This should NEVER be an option. If your child was yelling all of the time, would it be acceptable to put them under the knife and prevent them from being able to speak for the rest of their lives? Of course not, and this should be the same for your dog.
There are options and techniques to teach your dog not to bark and any dog can learn what it is they are and are not supposed to do. Owning a dog is a big responsibility and you need to put in the work to make sure you have a good dog. There is no such thing as a bad dog, only a bad owner.