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Barking: How to Get Your Dog to Quiet Down

By July 18, 2011March 26th, 2015No Comments

Try these techniques to stop your dog from barking. All of them can be successful, but don’t expect miracles overnight. The longer your dog has been practicing the barking behavior, the longer it will take for him to change his ways.

Keep these tips in mind while training:

* Don’t yell at your dog to be quiet—it just sounds like you’re barking along with him.
* Keep your training sessions positive and upbeat.
* Be consistent so you don’t confuse your dog. Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately. You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.

Here are some common situations that make dogs bark with solutions specific to each:

Barking at passersby: Remove the motivation
Barking when confined: Ignore the barking
Barking at other dogs: Desensitization and counter conditioning
Barking at intruders at the door: Teach your dog the “quiet” command or ask your dog for an incompatible behavior
Remove the motivation

Your dog gets some kind of reward when he barks. Otherwise, he wouldn’t do it. Figure out what he gets out of barking and remove it. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to continue the barking behavior.
Example: Barking at passersby

If he barks at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage his behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room. If he barks at passersby when he’s in the yard, bring him into the house to manage the situation. Never leave your dog outside unsupervised all day and night.
Ignore the barking

Ignore your dog’s barking for as long as it takes him to stop. That means don’t give him any attention at all while he’s barking. Your attention only rewards him for being noisy.

Don’t talk to him, don’t touch him, and don’t even look at him. When he finally quiets, even to take a breath, reward him with a treat.

To be successful with this method:

* You must wait as long as it takes for him to stop barking. If he barks for an hour and you finally get so frustrated that you yell at him to be quiet, the next time he’ll probably bark for an hour and a half. He learns that if he just barks long enough you’ll give him attention.
* Be consistent. You must ignore the barking EVERY time.

Example: barking when confined

If your dog is in his crate or confined to a room behind a baby gate or other barrier, he may bark because he wants to be with you.

* Turn your back and ignore him.
* Whenever he stops barking, turn, praise him, and give him a treat.
* Make a game of it. As he catches on that being quiet gets him a treat, lengthen the amount of time he must remain quiet before being rewarded.
* Start small. Reward him for being quiet for just a second or two. Work up to longer periods of quiet.
* Keep the game fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward him after 5 seconds, then 12 seconds, then 3 seconds, then 20 seconds, and so on.

Desensitization and counter conditioning

Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing him to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes him bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that he doesn’t bark when he sees it. Feed him lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats.

You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats!).
Example: barking at dogs

Dogs that are afraid of other dogs will often bark at them.

* Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight far enough away that you know your dog won’t bark at the other dog.
* As the friend and dog come into view, start feeding your dog lots of very yummy treats (tiny bits of cooked chicken usually work well). Keep feeding treats until the friend and dog are out of sight.
* Stop feeding treats as soon as the friend and dog disappear from view.
* Ask your friend and her dog to gradually walk closer.
* Don’t try to progress too quickly; it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.
* Contact a behavior professional for assistance if you need help.

Teach your dog the “quiet” command

It may sound nonsensical, but to stop your dog from barking, first teach him to bark on command.

* Give your dog the command to “speak.” Have someone immediately make a noise—such as knocking on the door—that is sure to make your dog bark.
* Let him bark two or three times, then stick a tasty treat in front of his nose.
* When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat until he starts barking as soon as you say “speak.”

Once your dog can reliably bark on command, teach the “quiet” command.

* Start in a calm environment with no distractions.
* Tell him to “speak.” When he starts barking, say “quiet” and stick a treat in front of his nose.
* Praise him for being quiet and give him the treat.

Example: Intruder at the Door

When the doorbell rings, your dog alerts you to the presence of an “intruder” by barking wildly. Once you’ve taught your dog the “quiet” command in a calm environment, practice in increasingly distracting situations until your dog can immediately stop barking when asked to, even when that “intruder” arrives at the door.
Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior

When your dog starts barking, ask him to do something that’s incompatible with barking.
Example: intruder at the door

Teach your dog to react to the doorbell by going to his special place (his bed or perhaps a mat near the door) and lying quietly while the “intruder” comes into the house.

* Start by tossing a treat on his mat and telling him to “go to your place.”
* Have him go to his place before you give him the treat.
* When he’s reliably going to his mat to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while he’s on his mat. If he gets up, close the door immediately.
* Repeat until he stays on his mat while the door opens.
* Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is on his mat. Reward him if he stays in place.

Other suggestions

Stimulate your dog. Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration. Depending on his breed, age, and health, your dog may require several long walks as well as a good game of chasing the ball and playing with some interactive toys.

This article was taken from The Humane Society and modified by New York Dog Nanny.


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