All dogs bark sometimes. They’re dogs, and they need to cut loose a little. When a dog starts barking excessively, however, it can be grating on your nerves and on your neighbors’ patience. Rather than run afoul of your local noise ordinances, take these steps to train your dog not to bark.
Most dogs bark for a reason, even though it may not be readily apparent to their owners. What reward does your dog get for barking? Does he do it to assert territory or is he bored? Is he scared of something or excited? Does he receive negative attention for barking? Remember, to a bored dog, negative attention can be just as rewarding as praise.
Once you find the cause of the barking, take steps to remove the stimuli. For instance, if your dog barks when he’s outside at night, bring him inside. If he barks at people passing by, shut the door and close the curtains.
One solution — and it’s more difficult than it sounds — is to completely ignore your dog when he barks and then praise and reward him when he stops. This requires an iron will if your dog barks continuously. If you break down and yell “Quiet!” after 20 minutes of barking, all you’ve done is teach him he’ll get a response after 20 minutes.
When your dog barks, offer him no response at all. Don’t touch him, speak to him or even look at him. When he stops, even if only for a few seconds, say “quiet,” praise him and reward him with a treat. Slowly increase the amount of time he has to be quiet before he gets the treat.
Teach Him to Talk
This advice seems counterintuitive, but if you can teach your dog to bark on command, you can then teach him to be quiet. When he barks, say “speak,” and immediately reward him. Continue this until he gets the idea, and then only reward him for barking after you give the “speak” command.
Once he’s mastered “speak,” give the “speak” command, but as soon as he barks, say “quiet,” and reward him. Slowly lengthen the time he stays quiet before giving him the treat, withholding the treat if he continues to bark. He’ll catch on quickly.
In a variation of this tactic, you can train your dog to do or perform a task which interferes with barking. For instance, if he’s crate-trained, throw a treat into the crate and tell him to go to his room. Focusing on the command (and the treat) discourages barking.
Some manufacturers sell spray collars, which spray your dog when he barks. Another solution is to supplement your “quiet” command training with a tonal/static correction training collar. Choose a collar that allows you to send a tonal correction as well as a static correction. You can also choose ultrasonic trainers which detect when your dog barks, automatically sending an ultrasonic tonal correction.
When your dog begins to bark, give the “quiet” command and follow the command with the tonal correction — a warning beep. If he ignores both the command and the tonal correction, manually activate the static correction.
In addition to manual correction collars, automatic anti-bark collars that use progressive correction exist. Progressive correction increases static correction levels until your dog stops barking. Many progressive collars reset to the lowest correction level once your dog is quiet for 30 seconds.
Tire Out Your Dog
If your dog is barking because he’s bored, try giving him some exercise. If there is a particular time of the day when your dog seems excessively restless, try playing with your dog before the barking usually starts. A tired dog is happier after exercise and time spent with his favorite human, and he will be less likely to experience boredom or frustration.
Remember your biggest strength — your dog wants to please you. With a little patience, you can train your dog not to bark.