Remedy No. 2
“Un-bark” your dog by training – does training work?
Funny enough triggering a bark in many dogs on purpose is much more complicated than getting them to stop.
But if you know one trigger that ignites your dog’s barking, you can use it to teach your dog how to bark on command.
WAIT A MINUTE! Teach my dog to bark in order to STOP the barking?
And how would THAT work?
Well, first of all, we teach the bark on command. Once this is done reliably, we teach to STOP the barking on command (or gesture). Voila!
Of course, there’s are some catches to this. First of all, while this can actually help to shorten a period of excited barking, I am completely honest with you: This method has its limits. It will likely not work as a reliable complete “Off-Switch” for the barking.
The reason is that often excitement and other different and very distracting feelings are involved that trigger the barking. This emotional and distracted setup will probably give your dog a hard time to perceive and follow your commands.
IF you try to go this route, it is a good idea to first try and get your dog’s attention somehow before you speak your command. This will give your dog the chance to first hear you and then follow the command more successfully.
Mila and I have trained barking and stopping on command and I am using it sometimes to shorten barking.
But I am still working with other methods and do not only rely on that for the reasons given above.
Remedy No. 3
The power of distraction
Distraction in connection with dogs is actually a very powerful little thing. It can be our worst enemy, when we try to get our dog’s attention outside and everything else is just SO much more interesting to our dog.
But distraction can also be a great training companion.
The key is to be MORE interesting than the things your dog is focussing on that moment.
You can try simple things, such as just calling your dog to come to you and have a hug or a treat ready.
If the dog returns to its original action, you can try to give it a task. A polite sit or performing a trick (shake hands … something easy).
If your dog does not come reliably when called, you don’t have to “wear off” that command. Go to your dog instead, talk to it and pet it. Try to get its attention this way.
I often literally tell my dog “it’s okay” in a soft and low voice. Mila meanwhile knows the sound of this phrase and knows that I only say that in situations that are not threatening.
Through experience these words have therefore turned into kind of a keyword that is telling her she does not need to find any threats here and barking is not necessary.
After a few “after-barks” (getting less and less loud) she usually calms.
In very hard cases you can also distract your dog by startling: Smash a rolled newspaper against the wall or other surface. Or if you have a big bunch of keys, rattle or throw it somewhere (NOT at the dog please!!!!) to create a short and loud unexpected noise that will get you the attention of your dog.
NOW you can try to call her to come to you for a hug. 🙂
Remedy No. 4
The power of praise
This is a very unusual route I have tested out of curiosity after reading about it in merely one sentence in a forum on the internet.
Instead of shouting at the dog the writer suggested TO PRAISE the dog while it is barking. The explanation was that the dog is doing what it is supposed to do: alert you. So why not be thankful. 🙂
Stay with me here, it gets better and less confusing:
Given that the dog really thinks it is fulfilling its duty by warning (=barking), reinforcement (= praise) tells the dog that it has done a good job and the owner has now noticed the warning. So, basically there is no need to continue the barking – provided the dog barks to alert and not out of boredom.
Mila is definitely an “alert barker”, which is why I found it reasonable to at least give this approach a try.
And believe it or not, I think it actually works!
Well, don’t get too excited. Just as the “trained barking and stopping on command” this is NO “Off-Switch”. It does not prevent her from “going off”, it usually also does not shut her up instantly. BUT it shortens Mila’s barking drastically. YEAH!
As I do not even WANT my dog to completely stop barking altogether, all of the methods above combined, including praising for barking have helped me to get to a level with this issue, I can live with very comfortably. Usually today an outburst of her barking ends up in a cuddle session on the couch.
Mila is an easily excited dog and I don’t have any illusions that I will ever find an “Off Switch” on her.
But honestly, I no longer need to find it.
If the barking predominantly happens while you are absent, making your dog more comfy and providing more exercise may again be the key. A box/ closed roomy kennel or a smaller closed room with comfy bedding and maybe a worn shirt of yours to cuddle with could help to reduce the barking.
Besides that “alone-times” should be limited. Always make sure that there is someone letting the dog out for potty business and some distraction.
If separation anxiety – also a trigger for barking and whining in some dogs who are left alone at home – is the reason for the fuss behind closed doors, training needs to address this issue to resolve the barking. Sometimes completely new arrangements are necessary to make sure that the dog does not have to deal with its separation anxiety all on its own.
Read more about how to deal with dogs barking a lot when outside on the next page.