Thursday, October 28, 2010

When Your Dog Barks

    Dogs bark for many different reasons.  They can communicate with you through their vocalization.  Your dog can show surprise, yelp in pain, whine, and sometimes even sound like they are saying words. They can bark at intruders, alert you to dangerous medical problems, call for help (remember Lassie?), and yes, they can bark for hours on end at nothing at all.  How, then, do we eliminate the "problem barking?"

1)  Reward the behavior that you want to keep (the quiet times).
     If your dog starts barking in frenzy when you come home from work, and you greet him with hugs and pats, you have just encouraged him to bark more every time you come home.  By giving him love and attention immediately after he barks, he learns that barking gets attention.
    Instead of rewarding the barking, reward the quiet times.  Ignore your dog's barks when you come inside.  Change clothes, sit down, read the paper.  When he is sitting quietly by your feet, give him one small treat (as small as a single piece of dry dog kibble).
   When you exit your home, and your dog is staying home alone, do not make a big deal out of your leaving.  Get ready for work, sit down, read the paper.  Leave when your dog is quiet and not paying attention.  Do not say goodbye or call any attention to the fact that you are leaving.  Staying home alone is not a big deal.  Don't make it into a big deal by calling attention to it.

2)  Extinguish the behavior you want to eliminate.  Decide in advance what you will do when you hear the inappropriate barking. Choose an unpleasant consequence that you deliver immediately upon hearing your dog bark.
a.  Go to your dog instead of calling him to you.
b.  Deliver a stern "NO" in a tone of voice that commands attention.
c.  Follow this with either a two-finger tap on the nose OR a quick spray in his face with a water bottle.
    The idea here is NOT to hurt the dog, but rather to give an unpleasant sensation to teach the meaning of "NO."
d.  Immediately leave the dog's presence.  Do not play with him or give any attention to him.

3)  Let all the people in your dog's life know the new system.  Everyone must be consistent in their training and treatment of your dog if you are to eliminate the unwanted behavior.

What have you tried?  What works for your pet dog who barks too much?  Leave a comment below.

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Julia from Priority Pets