Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to Train a Dog to Stop Barking Before You Go Barking Mad!

Have you ever pointed your remote at your dog and hit "mute?" The barking can really hit the spot sometimes, it can literally drive you nuts! I am sure you know EXACTLY what I mean. So let's look at how to train a dog to stop barking.
You can probably guess WHY dogs bark. It is how they express themselves. When they are in angst, and they wish to tell you about their deep emotional upsets, they bark. And boy, do they bark! And you don't have to be around to hear them. In fact, it is quite common for a dog to not bark when they're with their owner, but as soon as they're alone, off they go. Your neighbors will probably clue you in on this when this happens.
Well, to train a dog to stop barking, you first will need to understand what motivates the dog to bark in the first place. The more accurate you can be with this, the easier it will be to stop the barking.
Let's rule out the obvious first: Is your dog hungry? It could be that simple. It's not nice being hungry, and if I was really hungry, I think I would bark too!
Next obvious reason could be a lack of exercise. If your dog has been locked up for a few hours then he'll need some exercise, and possibly a bathroom break. Dogs like to be out and about, so you should not keep them locked away for long periods of time. If you do, expect lots of barking.
Now let's look at what we can do to train a dog that is still barking, despite plenty of exercise, attention and food.
You'll want to look out for causes. Some barking can be caused by a passing person, another dog, or even insects. This can be resolved somewhat by ignoring these attention seeking barks until your dog calms down. Then give praise and reward your dog for the "ability" to quieten down. You'll need to practice patience for this, but stick with it. The trick with training any dog is repetition.
Of course, if you can limit these external causes then you definitely should. My friends dog can go a bit crazy when eying the neighbors cat through the dining room window. A change of room does the trick. Of course, this is not a solution as such, but it does bring instant quietness!
Dealing with a barking dog when you're physically there is a lot easier than dealing with a barking dog when you're not there, as you can utilize correct timing, praise and correction. Here are some methods you can try:
A water gun - Aim for the chest, never the face. This method is a little hit and miss. You must be quick to draw, or the effect is greatly reduced. I'm not a fan personally.
Collar and leash - This can work if your dog is already trained to respond to a tug. Try it, it can work well to suppress barking.
Physical correction - This is a very effective method. When your dog barks, go down at their level and firmly wrap one or both hands around the snout and repeat a corrective command. But you mustn't be at all violent, or inhumane. Do not shake their snout, just a firm hold and that's it. This works very well. I usually say "Shh" until the dog stops resisting my hands. This is a great method for asserting your dominance as well.
Remember, be consistent, and be repetitive. That is crucial. And never get angry at your dog, you'll only make it worse. Just stick to your plan, and as soon as the barking stops, give praise and a treat!
Good luck!
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