Barking is a natural and social behavior that may be triggered by excitement, frustration, anxiety or just to say "hello." When dogs bark excessively, their vocalizations can become bothersome to their human companions. Simple training techniques can distract dogs from this disruptive behavior and assert their human companion's position as pack leader in the household.
Barking may be the result of various stimuli, but dog expert Cesar Millan notes that it can be triggered by pent-up energy. When dogs get plenty of fresh air and exercise, they are less likely to bark in excess. When they do, it is important that their handler behaves and reacts calmly. Dogs often mirror the actions of their human companions, and will behave accordingly. Human yelling mimics the sound of barking, encouraging the dog's vocalizations. People who are able to give commands and corrections calmly will have a greater effect on their dog's behavior than those who act with frustration.
When dogs are rewarded for barking, their noisy behavior increases. Finding the dog's motivation for barking and removing it can go a long way to correct the unwanted behavior. If he is barking at someone outside, for example, he can stay in another room of the house or be brought inside from the yard, advises the Humane Society of the United States. Once the dog's owner understands what is causing the dog to bark, she can gradually desensitize the dog to the stimulus from a distance. The Humane Society recommends that the stimulus be far enough away that the dog can see it, but does not feel motivated to bark at it. When he doesn't bark, the owner can reward the dog with treats. When the dog is calm, the stimulus can be brought closer, little by little. When the stimulus is out of sight, the treats are put away. This practice trains dogs to believe that their barking stimulus leads instead to treats.
Barking is instinctual to dogs intent on protecting their territory. Dog owners can teach their canine friends to bark only until the "Quiet" command is given. After a dog is allowed to bark three or four times, the owner calmly gives the "Quiet" command before going to the dog and gently holding his muzzle, preventing further vocalizations. The owner can then let go of the dog's muzzle, call him away from the door, ask him to sit and administer a treat. The ASPCA advises to repeat the sequence if the dog resumes barking. Friendly dogs may bark when visitors enter the home, but their barking behavior can be just as disruptive as a pet with less amiable intent. The ASPCA recommends that dog owners choose a spot for their dog to wait when a visitor arrives, preferably a visible spot eight feet away from the front door. The dog's owner can show the dog a treat and tell him to go to his spot. This practice requires repetition, but as soon as the dog is in his place, the owner should reward him with the treat.
Dogs may bark simply to get attention from their loved ones. To indicate that this behavior is undesirable, the Humane Society recommends ignoring the dog's noisy demands until he stops barking, as attention rewards the behavior. During this time, the dog should not be touched, spoken to or looked at. Once the dog is quiet, he can be rewarded with a treat. It is important to reward the dog's smallest efforts to remain silent, even if he is simply pausing to take a breath. The amount of time he is quiet can gradually be lengthened as he understands what he is supposed to do.
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