It’s just a fact of life: Dogs are going to bark. Whether it be because their nemesis, the three-legged-squirrel across the yard, is getting too close to the house or because your buddy just really, really wants to go outside, your dog is going to bark sometimes. But what if he barks obsessively? As in, too often? As in, a nerve-shattering amount and for no discernible reason? We’re here to help: here are three tips to help you hush up your pup.
1. Ignore the barking. Sounds simple, right? Feels like a no-brainer that also takes no effort on your part. But the flip side? It’s hard to stick with it when times get ruff. So get out your earplugs and prepare to ignore.
While your dog is barking (and again, to clarify: barking excessively and without due cause), don’t acknowledge him. If he barks for half an hour and you finally get frustrated and yell at him (a bad idea anyway), next time he’ll bark even longer. Why? You gave him attention. Think of it like a toddler throwing a tantrum: if he learns that making a lot of noise and causing a scene results in affection or some other kind of reward, you’re going to see a lot more of that sort of behavior.
So ignore the barking (don’t look at, touch, or speak to your pooch) until you hear silence. Once silence wins the day, reward your pup with praise and/or a treat. Continue rewarding your pup for being quiet.
Finally, when he catches on that being quiet is a good thing, start to draw out the time where you reward him. Once he finishes barking, wait five seconds to praise him. Then wait ten seconds. Continue to extend your timeframe outward until your pup has successfully learned that you’ll ignore him if he barks, and give him attention when he doesn’t.
2. Teach your dog the command “quiet.” I’m going to be honest here: my dog is smarter than most people I know, so this was pretty easy for us. But most dogs love to learn, so this should be fun for both of you: while it seems counter-intuitive, the first step to teaching your dog how to be quiet is actually to teach your dog to bark.
- Teach your dog to “speak.” Once your dog barks two or three times, reward and give him a treat. Continue training until your dog barks on command. Luckily, with a dog who loves to bark like yours does, teaching this command shouldn’t be too tricky.
- Once you have your dog barking on command (“speak!”), move onto the counter-command to get him to stop. When he barks, command “quiet” and produce a treat to hold in front of your pup. When he stops barking in order to sniff/reach for the treat, praise and reward your pup for being quiet. Continue training until your pooch catches on.
The idea is that if you can teach your dog to bark on command, you can also teach him to stop barking. It’s the same theory behind dog owners who not only teach their dog to sit, but also to stand up again once the sit is over.
3. Tire that dog out. A tired dog is a quiet dog, and sometimes excess barking is just a result of excess energy. Take your pup on a daily walk, if not multiple walks. Bring your dog to one of the many dog parks in the area and let him run free and frolic with his friends until he’s pooped. Mentally tire your pup out too: spend 30 minutes each day training your pooch, and you’ll see her nap more often. (If you have kids, have them take over some of the training: it’s a great way to keep them both busy!)
Whether you have to try one, two, or all three of these techniques, your persistence and patience will be worth it. After all, a quieter dog makes for a happier, migraine-free you!
[Editor’s Note: Of course, for dogs whose non-stop barking comes from anxiety or stress or only happens when you’re out of the house, you may need to bring in the professionals. (As much as we’d all like to help our dogs ourselves, sometimes the best way to help is to bring in someone more qualified.)]
– Emily Kulich