The Real Reasons Your Dog Barks (and How to Make Him Stop)
When your dog most often barks at home or in other areas where he spends a lot of time, he's probably guarding his territory. His body language will be stiff and he'll bounce a bit as he barks in a low tone -- you can tell that he's alert and on the lookout.
1. Try to block your pup's exposure to stimuli that trigger the barking (squirrels, the mailman) -- a spray-on glass coating to block windows at his eye level often works well if he's inside. You can also keep him inside if he's usually outside during the day.
2. If your dog makes noise at people or other dogs while he's out on his walk, give him a soft treat (like a mini hot dog) to divert his attention before he starts barking.
3. If your dog gets flustered when he spots another passenger dog on car rides, try transporting him in a crate and leave him in the backseat.
4. If none of the tips above solve your problem, try quiet training. Say one word (always use the same word in the same calm tone). You can simultaneously grab his muzzle to make a more visual impression, although this isn't necessary if it makes one of you uncomfortable. When your pup stops making noise, immediately follow his good behavior with a reward (a pat, tennis ball, or a treat). It's best to speak your word command and then show your dog treats to physically lure him away from whatever is causing his barking -- just make sure to reward him with the treat after he walks away and has stopped making noise.
If your dog seems to be oblivious to anything you say, first use your command word and then make a loud noise (rattling keys, coins in a can), which should startle him enough to stop. Offer a treat and then continue to give him treats every few minutes until whatever is bugging him is gone. If this fails to work after 10 to 20 repetitions, consider consulting a professional trainer who can give you further personalized assistance to get your dog's bad habits in shape.
Your dog usually only barks when visitors arrive. He looks relaxed, his tail is wagging, his barking is higher pitched, and he whines. He wants to make it known that he's happy to have company!
1. Reduce his excitement by teaching him to sit and stay away from the door when visitors arrive
2. Keep a favorite toy by the door and give it to your dog anytime you know a guest is coming over.
Your dog looks at you, shuffles around, and barks in a higher-pitched tone. You can see it in his eyes that he wants something (food, water), but you just fed/walked/pet him five minutes ago! He's making ruckus because he wants your attention -- a learned behavior that can be treated with a consistent response.
1. Don't reward your dog (eye contact, touching, scolding, or even talking to him) -- that just feeds the fire: Ignore his antics instead.
2. Give clear body language: Walk out of room or look away until he stops, and then give him the attention he wants.
3. If the dog barks to get you to play with him, have him bring a toy and sit in front of you.
4. Regularly pay attention to your dog when he's not barking by praising or petting him, and by giving him an occasional treat.
Socially Facilitated Barking
Your dog is usually relatively quiet -- unless he hears the neighbor dogs making noise!
1. Keep your furball indoors when other dogs are out.
2. Give him a distraction (some sort of treat) when other dogs' noise might influence him.
3. Play music to drown out other animal noise.
Your pup only barks when you're gone. This is usually accompanied by pacing, destruction, or other signs of distress that will no doubt disrupt the neighbors. You should be sure to always leave him with toys to keep his mind off his separation from you; however, this behavior usually requires obedience training to teach a dog to sit, stay, and be quiet. Because training on your own can be complicated, it's usually a good idea to sign up for lessons with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
A trainer is also often the only solution for compulsive barking -- when your pup repeatedly barks for long periods into thin air or at odd things that don't bother other dogs (shadows, light flashes, mirrors, open doors, the sky, etc.). The trainer will be able to assess the situation firsthand and offer personalized tips to improve the undesired behavior.
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