Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking

Dogs bark to communicate--so what's he saying?

Dogs bark to communicate–so what’s he saying?

How to stop a dog from barking got the most canine topic votes on my informal Facebook poll (stay tuned for a cat-centric one, too!). See, I want my next big project (an on demand pet behavior course) to answer YOUR must-know questions.

So here’s your turn. Fill in the blank in the comments: “I wish I knew how to fix my cat/dog’s (…..)”

STOP BARKING NOW with AMY’S 3 EASY TIPS!

WHY DOGS BARK

On Facebook, some of the comments were very specific. Some of these included:

  1. barking at motorcycles and skateboards (bicycles are a biggie, and so are joggers!)
  2. barking at doorbells
  3. barking at doorbells on TV
  4. barking at other dogs
  5. barking in the back yard
  6. barking when (known) visitors arrive

The key to stop dogs barking is to understand why the dog barks. There’s no single answer, but in all cases, the dog is REWARDED (gets something s/he wants) out of the barking. It’s a simple cause/effect situation. Take a look again at the above complaints, and see where they might fit in this list of some common barking reasons. And then, ask yourself–how do I respond to the barking?

  • Play bark (“Gotta shout about the game!”)
  • Howdy-do bark (“Nice to see you.”)
  • Defensive bark (“I’m scared, go away.”)
  • Offensive bark (“It’s MY property, don’t come near!”)
  • Fire alarm bark (“warning, Will Robinson!”)
  • “Look at that!” bark (strangers, friends, garbage truck, your new hat, SQUIRREL!)
  • Boredom bark (“Come entertain me…”)
  • Lonely (“Poor me.”)

Personally, I want my Magical-Dawg to bark. You should want YOUR dog to bark, too–at the appropriate times. I don’t want him silent when that burglar prowls outside. So after several barks, he gets praise and then a treat (and it’s hard for dogs to bark while chewing).

HOW TO STOP A DOG FROM BARKING

How do you stop barking? It sounds counter-intuitive, but to teach dogs to SHUSH you must first teach them to SPEAK on command. Here’s how.

  1. Set up “trigger” situations with the doorbell, a friendly visitor, or whatever gets the bark-aholic going.
  2. Just as the doorbell rings, say “SPEAK.”
  3. When the dog barks, praise him and offer a toy or treat or whatever floats his boat as a reward.

It will take several repeats before your dog recognizes that the command SPEAK means permission to yap. Practice this (even without the doorbell), and for the first several days ALWAYS reward the dog with a yummy or fun game he loves. Once the lightbulb goes off in his furry noggin, and he recognizes he gets PAID to bark on command, he’ll be eager to win your approval with this new skill.

Once he will SPEAK on command, it’s time to teach SHUSH. That’s easy–after he’s barked, do NOT give him the reward, but instead say SHUSH…and hold out the treat in your closed fist. Dogs stop barking to sniff and chew, so that typically stops the noise mid-yap. Give him the treat, while repeating GOOD SHUSH, while he chomps the yummy.

Again, it will take several repeats, but that’s the basics. You’ll slowly expand the amount of time he must SHUSH in order to earn the treat. Once your dog knows both SPEAK and SHUSH, you’ll be ready to move on to practice in the specific circumstances that are most bothersome.

I’d love to help you stop your dog barking, with more prescriptive how-to tips. Stay tuned for the FREE WEBINAR announcement and details about the forthcoming on-demand series.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to get YOUR biggest pets peeves on my list. Fill in the blank in the comments: “I wish I knew how to fix my cat/dog’s (…..)”


 

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Comments

Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking — 11 Comments

  1. Excellent, I look forward to the webinar. I have a big issue with my Husky. She demand barks, particularly when she senses it should be mealtime. She doesn’t really bark other than that so it’s hard to train Speak without rewarding the demand barking. Ignoring the behavior doesn’t serm to work. It drives Us nuts!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. Thanks for sharing this information. I’ve been around animals my whole life and not sure I have any burning questions for you (right now). I really like how you stress the repetition and reward process of training.

  3. Pingback: 7 Cat Scratch Training Tips: How to Stop Cat from Clawing | AMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood

    • Hey Rebekah! Well…training cats to use the toilet can be done and there are kits out there that offer step by step. There are pros and cons to it, though. It’s convenient for people, of course. But…the cat’s “output” is a barometer of kitty health, and monitoring the litter box is one of the best ways to do that. When cats instead use the human toilet, a lot of that info gets (literally!) diluted. Oh, and cats won’t flush (ew!). But that’s certainly a topic to add to the list!

  4. Im fostering a reactive boxer….he grew up on the street and attempts to kill or maime every other animal …loves people. .kids especially. ..is there a way to train this out of him? It’s pretty hard to adopt out an animal that wants to kill your neighbours Jack Russell .

    • Bless you for fostering this needy dog. Yes, you can work with reactive dogs to reduce and tone down the behavior but it will always be a management issue for safety reasons. I will also say that truly dangerous dogs very often attack silently–you won’t hear the barks, snarls ahead of time. The number of injuries and severity of these injuries toward other animals predicts how well (or not) the effectiveness of rehab. It’s important to prevent incidences because the more a dog “practices attack” and is successful at it (nailing the Jack Russell), it reinforces and encourages the behavior.

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