Is Your Dog’s Barking Driving You Crazy? Read On!
We are often asked by clients, How do I stop my dog from barking?
Interestingly, people who cannot tolerate barking tend to have dogs that bark, a lot. Seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? The fact of the matter is, from the dog’s perspective, barking is often reinforced by the person who hates it the most! People who can’t stand barking will inadvertently reinforce the behavior in an effort to stop it.
You will usually try to figure out what the dog wants and give it to them just to get the dog to STOP barking. Unfortunately in the long run this will only increase barking, because the dog figures out that barking gets her things that she wants; your attention, the treats on top of the fridge, play time, her food bowl, the ball thrown, etc.
Why Do Dogs Bark so Darn Much!
Not all dogs are barkers, but boy do some dogs really enjoy barking!
Barking is a self-reinforcing behavior, just like digging, meaning the dog does not need any encouragement from us to maintain the behavior. No treats, cookies or toys needed. Dogs also enjoy barking together. I would venture to say that barking is a group sport. When one dog begins barking in our house, a few other dogs will join the chorus, sometimes without even leaving the comfort of their dog bed. When you yell at your dog to stop barking, we hear “Rover, stop,” “Rover, quiet”, “Rover, no bark.” However, your dog hears the famous adult on the Peanuts cartoon “Waa, waa, waa, waaaa, waa.” Why, because your dog is not a verbal species. Your dog does not understand English, as much as you wish he did.
Manage the Environment
How to stop the barking? First, stop yelling at them, because from your dog’s perspective, you are barking along with them. You are likely unintentionally reinforcing their barking. Change things in the environment to prevent the dog from being stimulated to bark. For example, if your couch is near a window and your dog spends time looking out the window and barking, move it to another wall to prevent access to the window. Maybe your dog is stimulated by outside sounds, running an air conditioner, the TV, the radio or a white noise machine can help reduce noise stimulation.
Major hardware stores sell window wallpaper that you can temporarily put on your windows. This is great stuff. It allows the light to come in, but prevents your dog from seeing out the window. We’ve done this on our picture windows and it has reduced unwanted barking out the window by 90%. We left the top of the window, wallpaper-free so we can still see who is coming down the driveway. We also have clients who have used the spray window frost that can be purchased at most hardware stores to obscure a dog’s view out the window and reduce unwanted barking.
Stop Reinforcing the Barking
If your dog is barking because she wants access to a resource such as food, treats, balls, toys, the great outdoors, getting out of a crate, etc. then respond by walking away and not giving the dog what she is barking for. Require her to be quiet for a minimum of five seconds before you return and put the food down, open the door, play with toys, etc. The message to your dog is simple; barking makes everything stop and go away and being quiet gets you what you want.
As an example, dogs who are guests in our home learn very quickly that barking during the meal preparation and feeding process make us immediately put the food bowls down on the counter and walk briskly out of the kitchen. Being quiet for 5 seconds makes us return to continue the process. If the barking starts again, we immediately leave the kitchen.
The first time we do this with a dog, we do A LOT of walking in and out of the kitchen as the dog sorts out this mysterious human behavior; what on Earth is making this human leave the kitchen in the middle of MY feeding routine? If you are consistent and clear with your message that barking simply will not work to get the dog what she wants, she will figure out the puzzle and you will greatly reduce barking. We work this same routine to be let out of a crate, to go out doors, to play with toys, during training sessions, etc.
Training Tip: When you walk away from the dog for barking do it briskly and matter of factly with no eye contact, touching or talking to the dog. Just walk away.
Time Out Protocol
Once you have done what you can to manage the environment and you have stopped reinforcing the barking, but the barking is continuing because it involves resources you cannot control such as your neighbor’s dogs being outside or someone walking past a window, you may need to use the Time Out Protocol to reduce the barking.
At Everything Dog, we are happy to help you build the behaviors you want as well as eliminate barking or any other issue you are having with your dog. Contact us with your questions and concerns and let us help!