Barking signifies play, excitement and fear and is your dog’s only mode of alerting his pack to a perceived threat. But persistent barking or howling isn’t appropriate. A noisy dog is bad for neighborhood relations and a sign of a distressed dog. You can fix this with behavior modification.
Identify the Cause
Keep a diary of your dog’s barking and howling. Note down the times and circumstances for each episode. For example, if your neighbor reports that he howls when you’re out, your dog is probably suffering from separation anxiety. If barking only results when the doorbell sounds, he’s being territorial.
Test your hypothesis. Once you’ve figured out a probable cause, expose Lucky to the stimulus you suspect is causing the barking. For example, ring the doorbell once every hour to see how he reacts or shut him away in a room for five minutes.
Rule out environmental factors. Fireworks, car engines and shouting from outside can alarm a dog and cause him to bark from fear. Expose him to the stimuli you suspect is the cause at lots of different times of day.
Hold a food treat in front of Lucky’s nose to distract him. Let him get the scent. Move the treat up and over his head. Say “sit” as you do this. Lucky will follow the treat with his nose and will eventually sit to get a better sniff.
Give your dog the treat and fuss over him as soon as he sits. This teaches him that sitting has a positive consequence. Repeat this exercise until he sits almost immediately. With sufficient repetition, you’ll be able to make him sit using just your voice.
Create a scenario in which Lucky is likely to make lots of noise to apply the distract-and-reward technique. For example, have a friend ring the doorbell. Give him the sit command as soon as he starts to bark, howl or whine. Reward him with verbal praise and a food treat. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that resisting the urge to bark has a positive outcome.
Shut Lucky away for two minutes to address separation anxiety. Wait close by so you can hear him. If he is noisy, don’t return to him. Open the door as soon as he quiets down by himself, even if it’s just to take a break from barking. The trick is to time your reappearance to coincide with the desired behavior of being silent. This way, he’ll learn that his actions have consequences. Repeat the process daily, extending the period of time you leave him.