Barking is one of the most natural and hardly wired behaviours dogs do. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, but it can become a problem when it starts annoying neighbours and even you as the owner. As in all behaviour problems I try to solve, I like to look at when the dog is barking and what is causing it to bark. These are the reasons and steps I employ to stop barking dogs
Why Is It Barking?
Generally, it is because they are becoming under stimulated and this behaviour becomes exacerbated as an outlet as other instincts are not being satisfied or being suppressed. The popularity of anti bark collars are high because of their immediate effect in stopping the dog barking. The act of barking does not become reinforcing as it is met with an electic shock or a spray for dogs using citronella collars and these tools can assist to stop barking dogs.
The dogs will become collar smart as they will learn that there is no barking when the collar is on, but as soon as it is off, the flood gates open. In situations where the dog is put on notice by council or local law officers, the anti bark collar is effective in stopping it immediately, but what needs to be done is a program to put the barking on cue, then a quiet command to cease the barking.
So in other words, teach the dog to bark on command using positive methods then once you have that on cue, teach the dog to be quiet on command. Now lets look at some steps we can use to stop your dog barking.
Where Do You Start To Stop Barking Dogs
To teach the dog to bark, you need to find something that will excite the dog. If it has a favourite toy, put the dog on the other side of a fence or tether it to a stationary object and tease the dog with the toy. Try to elicit a bark then, reward the dog with a treat. If you are struggling getting a bark, reward a whimper or any noise that could lead to a bark.
Make this session go for 5 minutes only. Then try to do a few sessions per day in trying to elicit a bark from the dog. It will generally take 2-3 sessions until you get a bark. As soon as you get a bark, give a huge reward with food or even give the dog the toy to play with. At this stage, don’t use an commands.
When you are getting the dog barking pretty well instantly upon teasing it, begin using a word just as you start the excitement. Something like ‘SPEAK’, or ‘TALK’. Keep saying the command and tease until the dog barks, then reward with food and praise.
A good hint is to click your fingers at the same time when saying the command. The clicking is associated with the command then eventually, you will be able to make the dog simply by clicking your fingers.
Once you have the barking command on cue, get the dog continually barking by one command. Try to get multiple barks from one command or get a string of barks in a row before rewarding. Eventually, the dog will do a good 5-10 second string of barks from one command.
Then look for the exact moment the dog is quiet then at that exact moment, say the word, ‘QUIET’ and then reward profusely. Then rinse and repeat. Once you are having the bark command on cue every time, try to slip in the quiet command whilst the dog is in a full blown barking act. You might need to give a few commands for them to be quiet on the command but as soon as they do…reward profusely.
Shaping To Stop Barking Dogs
Essentially what you are doing is shaping the dog very gradually into the two commands ever so slowly but because you are using a reinforcement schedule, that behaviour will be quite strong as will the commands.
If you make this part of your training routine, the dog will be less likely to indiscriminately bark as it will wait for the training sessions to do the barking and you have effectively placed the bark and quiet command on cue. Easy Hey?
For those who who would like to know how to use clicker training and positive methods to stop your dog’s barking. I have found a series of 4 exceptional videos that go into some good details on how to use clicker training and classic conditioning techniques.