Barking is arguably the most obnoxious doggie behavior and is definitely the most difficult to fix. Since dogs bark for different reasons and in response to varying stimuli, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact problem. However, you should know that it is possible to teach your dog not to bark, as long as you have patience and the desire to stop the behavior.
The first step in teaching your dog not to bark is to identify the stimuli. It is rare for dogs to bark just for the sake of it; usually, barking is a way for them to signal to the pack that something is wrong. Since you and your family constitute your dog’s pack, he is actually barking for your benefit most of the time. The trick is to teach your dog that barking isn’t necessary. Following are a few of the most common reasons why dogs bark.
Your dog is lonely. Some dogs bark when they are left alone for extended periods of time. They think (or know) that you are in the house and are asking for attention. If you give your dog attention when he or she barks, however, you’re effectively teaching that barking will result in a positive reward. One of the best ways to retrain a dog not to bark when this is the problem is to increase the amount of exercise your dog receives. Don’t give him attention because of the barking, but do give him attention when the barking stops.
Your dog is afraid. Another common reason why your dog barks might be because he is afraid. Fear is a powerful stimuli and your dog is trying to scare away would-be monsters and predators by making lots of noise. Thunder, loud vehicles, the vacuum cleaner and other loud noises are often the culprit. To teach your dog not to bark as a response to fear, try masking the intimidating noise by playing the television or the radio. You can also give your dog a safe retreat such as a crate or a closet for him to go hide.
Your dog sees strangers. Many dogs bark when they see strangers, which is an attempt to protect his territory and his family. When the kids are playing in the street in front of your house or the UPS guy makes a delivery, strangers might be punctuated by ferocious barking. To curb this behavior. get your dog as familiar with strangers as possible. Introduce him to everyone that comes to the door and ask them to give him treats when he behaves. If this becomes too much of a problem, you might want to close the drapes and blinds on your windows to give your dog less to bark at.
Your dog has separation anxiety. Another reason why your dog may be barking is separation anxiety. If there has been a recent change in his schedule or if you are leaving for long periods of time, he may simply be lonely, barking while you’re gone to express his anxiety. To solve this problem, you might want to ask a neighbor or friend to drop in once a day to check on him. When you leave for brief periods of time, leave a fun treat or a new toy to keep him occupied. Soon, your dog will associate your being gone with something fun and new to do.
Teaching your dog not to bark can obviously take a long time, but be patient. Reward your dog when he doesn’t bark and give negative consequences when he does. But more than that, try to determine the reason for the barking and cut it off at the source.