“Oh, I LOVE it when my dog shouts at the mail carrier and won’t be quiet when I ask him to,” said no one ever!
Don’t we all love a quick fix? If only there was a quick way to make our dogs be quiet…well, one that’s humane that is.
You see, there are many ‘quick fixes’ in dog training and some of them make your eyes water and are really not very nice for your dog. We love our dogs, don’t we? So there’s no need to go down that road.
But actually, we can give you some easy steps to help reduce your dog’s barking – yippee!
Locate the Problem
Management is your first port of call when looking at problem barking. Here are some simple management techniques for problem barking.
- Barking at the mail carrier – can you fit a mailbox next to your door? This can help your dog not think there’s an intruder who must be shouted at.
- Looking at a passersby through the window and barking? – Fit window frosting along the bottom of your windows (your dog’s eye level) so your dog doesn’t have a visual of the outside.
- Don’t put your dog in situations where they feel they need to bark – Many dogs bark because they’re scared. So remove stressors like being home alone if they can’t cope with it and seek help from a dog separation anxiety specialist.
- Use music to buffer or muffle outside noises if your dog reacts to noise – Different types of music or white/brown/pink noise will work on different frequencies. Find one that works to muffle the outside bangs, clattering, or even other dogs barking in the neighborhood.
Train Your Dog to Do Something Else
Teaching your dog there are other ways to react to a situation can be done with simple, force-free training.
- Reward them when they’re quiet – It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But yes, rewarding calm and quiet behavior will help your dog understand that it’s much more preferable than serenading you with loud barks.
- Keep them busy – Physical and mental exercise is essential to prevent boredom barking. Barking can be very self-reinforcing, so bored dogs will bark because it’s a fun thing to do. Use puzzle toys and do scent work games if you’re unable to do a lot of physical activity.
- Teach them a quiet cue – By pairing a word like ‘thank you’ with food, your dog will start to anticipate there being food available when you say the word. Say ‘thank you’ and immediately give a couple of treats and repeat this ten times a day, every day for a week. When your dog goes to bark at something the word ‘thank you’ will positively interrupt their behavior and reorient them to you for a treat. We can let our dogs know ‘thanks, I’ve got this’ and get them to be quiet very quickly.
- Teach them an alternative doorstep greeting – If dogs bark at the door when a visitor comes, teach them to fetch a toy instead; it’s hard, though not impossible, to bark with a mouth full of toy, but the sound will be muffled!
- Teach an alternative to barking at dogs – While reactivity is always going to be easier working with a professional dog trainer, you can teach your dog the Look at That game from Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt to help them look (and not bark) at another dog.
Finally, don’t shout at them for barking. There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s mean and our dogs don’t like it when we shout at them, and it honestly never feels great for us either. Secondly, your dog can start to think, “Oh, great! Everyone’s barking! This is rewarding!” And then you get more not less, as they almost feel like they’re being rewarded for barking because you’re joining in. If you need to, go out, take a breath, and return when you’re relaxed. That’s much better than shouting at your dog.
About the Author
Petrina Firth is a Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behaviorist of over 10 years who now mainly specializes in Separation Anxiety (CSAT) and also creates content, lessons and articles for the Zigzag puppy training app and website. Petrina is a member of the Pet Professional Guild, the head of marketing and board member for the APDT UK, and a member of the CAPBT committee. She is also a tech and gadget enthusiast who enjoys city living with her rescue French Bulldog and partner.
Zigzag* is a puppy training app with a difference, rather than focusing solely on obedience we take puppy guardians on a journey through Life Skills and important developmental stages, to hopefully give them happy, confident and well-behaved puppies, with an understanding that puppies and dogs aren’t robots, they have big feelings, and that’s ok!
* Available in the UK and coming soon to the US.
Zigzag is a Pet Professional Guild Corporate Partner.