Barking is a normal behavior and one of the ways dogs communicate. Some breeds have a higher tendency to bark, so barking frequency, volume, and duration vary by individual.
Certain barking can be desirable, alerting your family to package deliveries, visitor arrivals, and potential intruders. But excessive barking can cause frustration, weakening the bond between you and your dog. Here are some behavior modification steps to help you and your dog gain peace and quiet.
Step 1: Identify what triggers your dog to bark such as other dogs, people, wildlife, garbage trucks, or door knocking. Keeping a log is helpful and can speed up the behavior modification progress.
Step 2: Find the situations causing your dog to bark such as perching on the couch, window watching during busy times when people and other dogs are passing by, kids playing after school or rabbits in the yard during the morning.
Step 3: Think about what you would like your dog to do instead of barking. For example, your dog can be taught to lie on a mat when the doorbell rings, grab a toy when a delivery arrives, hold a toy to muffle or stop barking, run to you for further instructions, or be quiet on cue after a certain number of barks.
Step 4: Identify how you can manage the environment. Move or block the couch perch, play music, increase the TV volume to mask the sounds of kids playing, or cover the window with opaque film.
Step 5: Set a time frame such as two weeks. Monitor your dog’s progress in your log.
Often people become frustrated with barking and try corrections such as yelling or throwing something at the dog, stomping feet and rushing toward the dog, or using a citronella or shock collar. These methods are rarely effective to stop barking, and, in some cases, may even make the barking worse. Your dog may become untrusting or fearful. It can be more effective to teach your dog what to do instead of barking. Management will be needed until your dog learns how to do something else. If your dog is anxious or has barking tendencies, or you are inconsistent with training new behaviors, it can be more challenging to stop the barking.
Some dogs might not improve despite consistently using these techniques. If you don’t find relief from barking, seek a consult with a certified veterinary behaviorist or other behavior professional. A positive reinforcement-based dog trainer can help speed your progress. A thorough assessment, customized treatment plan, and professional support might be your key to quiet.