How Can I Train My Dog to Stop Barking at Car Alarms?

Dogs often bark when they are alarmed about a potential danger.
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Adding a barking dog to a car alarm can lead to annoyed neighbors and sleepless nights. Dogs who bark at loud noises, such as car alarms, are practicing alarm barking, trying to warn you of a perceived threat. Helping your dog to understand that the sound is not a threat and that you have the situation under control will curb his barking behavior and give you some peace and quiet.

Teaching the Quiet Command

Yelling at a barking dog usually is seen as you joining in. Tensing up or grabbing your dog to pull him away confirms to him that there is a danger, so it's important to communicate another way. Start by teaching your dog to speak on command at home. Encourage him to bark either by acting excited or using something that usually triggers the behavior. Say "speak" then reward him after one or two barks. Once he has learned to speak on command, it's time to teach quiet. Tell your dog to speak, and after a few barks, hold a treat near his nose and say "quiet." When he stops to smell the treat, reward him. Continue your training sessions until he can bark and stop barking on command. Slowly start using the quiet command in situations where your dog is a little more excited.

Habituation and Reward

The goal is to help your dog to stop seeing the car alarm as something dangerous. Start in your home when your dog is calm and use a recording of a car alarm. Play the sound at a very low volume at first. If your dog reacts negatively, lower the volume. When you find a volume where your dog can hear the sound but be quiet, reward him liberally. During the next few days or weeks, depending on how fast your dog learns, slowly increase the volume, rewarding and praising your dog every time the sound comes on. This will help him to think of the car alarm as something positive.

Field Test

When your dog can listen to the recording at full volume without barking, take him to a secluded place where no one will mind you making noise. You will need a leash, a car with an alarm, the recording of the car alarm and some of your dog's favorite treats. Make sure to stay relaxed, since dogs can sense your tension and will react to it. First play the car alarm recording with the volume up. If your dog starts barking, tell him quiet. If your dog doesn't start to bark, or stops when you tell him to, reward him. If he continues to bark, you may have more habituation work to do. Next trigger the actual car alarm. Again, if he starts barking, use the quiet command and reward silence. If your dog is particularly tense, you may have to start by rewarding a few seconds of silence and work your way up.

Out in the World

Use the quiet command in daily life and give your dog tons of praise and treats when he listens. The more situations he gets used to being quiet, the easier it will be to get him to stop barking when he is excited. If he has gotten used to one type of car alarm but still barks at others, you may need to habituate him to those sounds as well. Always be a calm leader to your dog so he can feel confident even in unfamiliar situations.