Dogs bark for all sorts of reasons, but if your dog is barking at noises, either specific ones or just noises in general, he’s probably trying to be helpful, letting you know that there is something new in the area. If you do not, in fact, need to be told every time a car passes or the phone rings, and are beginning to find this highly annoying, practice some simple training techniques that accustom him to the noises.
Keep a “dog bark diary” for a few days, noting which sounds your dog barks at and how loud they have to be before he starts barking. For example, if he barks at vehicles driving past, note how close and how loud the vehicle is when he starts. Can you hear it before he begins? Also note his body language for each noise. He may be barking at different noises for different reasons. If he is barking to raise the alarm, to establish his territory or to alert you to something, he’ll probably be quite stiff. If he is barking to say hello, for example when he hears voices, he’ll be a lot more relaxed.
Prepare recordings of the sounds he barks at and see if he responds when you play them, both of which you can do on almost any computer. If he does respond, you can use them in training.
Ask your dog to lie down, a position that is incompatible with barking. Let him relax for a few minutes, before calling him into another room for a treat or some petting. Spend a few days just having him relax for short periods.
Repeat the process, but this time, have one of the trigger sounds begin after he is relaxed, but at a very low volume, too low to trigger barking. Turn the recording off after a minute, or immediately if he stiffens. If one of the things he barks at is the television, you can simply use your set. For voices and vehicles, you can recruit others to help. Continue over a few weeks, using a gradually louder volume each time.
Ask him to lie down whenever you hear one of the sounds he responds to outside and before he starts barking. If he has already started and is ignoring your command, startle him by making a loud noise yourself, such as clapping your hands or slamming a door, then ask him to lie down again once his attention is on you.
Items You Will Need
- Notepad and pen
- These instructions are to desensitize your dog to everyday noises. If you want to train him to stop barking on command, regardless of the reason, you first need to teach him to “speak” on cue, then to stop, which is a different technique.
- Only provide praise, affection or treats when he has been quiet and relaxed for at least a few minutes. You do not want him to associate barking with getting something nice, or you’ll have a whole new set of problems to deal with.
- If you are having problems getting him to stop barking and the habit is really annoying you, consult a professional dog trainer.
- Don’t shout at your dog when he barks. This isn’t cruel, unless he’s a very nervous dog, but it won’t work. As the Humane Society points out, yelling when your dog barks sounds to him like you are joining in.
- Don’t use a shock collar to try to stop your dog barking. This is cruel.
- There are other devices, including collars, that are supposed to stop dogs barking by releasing a citrus scent or emitting a very high-pitched sound. These are less brutal than a shock collar, but of varying effectiveness. If you do decide to use one of these, get advice from your vet or dog trainer first.
- Don’t forget that you probably don’t want your dog to stop barking at all sounds. In some cases, for example an intruder breaking in, your dog really is being helpful. During training, focus on the everyday sounds that you want him to ignore, not a random selection of strange noises.
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