Barking! It can be one of the most annoying things our dogs do and is the source of many council complaints each year. As annoying as it can be, it is a natural behaviour for dogs, so we are sharing our top tips to help curb excessive barking so you and your pup can live in harmony (and keep your neighbours happy!)
First, you need to understand why your dog is barking. Think about all your dogs triggers.
- Is it just once a day when the postman comes past?
- Constantly at any noise it hears?
- When people walk past the house, or maybe only if they have a dog?
- Is there a certain area they bark in such as along the front fence or is it all through the house or yard?
- Is there a certain time of day your dog barks more than any other times?
Once we know the source of the problem, we can start to address it. The process is the same regardless of your dogs specific triggers. Firstly, we need to address the cause of the barking. Could it be boredom? Ensure your dog is getting an appropriate amount of enrichment and exercise each day. This might include small training sessions, sniffari’s, games of fetch or enrichment puzzles.
If enrichment doesn’t help curb the behaviour, it’s likely that boredom isn’t the cause and we will need to counter-condition your dog to their triggers. This means turning those triggers from scary things they need to guard your house from, or fun things to bark at into something they can be rewarded for if they actively ignore them.
Barking is very rewarding for your dog. It’s a natural behaviour and they love doing it! So we need to make being quiet MORE rewarding for them. So to start, we need to make sure that the dog can’t access their triggers while you aren’t present to reward them for ignoring it. This might mean blocking access to that part of the yard, hanging shade cloth on your fence so they can’t see through, leaving music on to mask the sound of triggers they can hear or crating them with a kong.
Then when you are home, we need to work on the look-at-that game. So every time their trigger walks past, you quickly say “yes!” and reward them before they can bark. This will take time and patience over the course of a few days or weeks. This will desensitise them and create a positive association with their trigger.
Note: Because barking is very self-reinforcing, meaning they enjoy it, it is important to make sure that the rewards you are using are high value. It will help speed up the process because they get amazing treats for staying quiet, rather than a bit of fun while barking.
We do not recommend the use of bark collars or similar items that punish the dog for barking. Whilst they can seem like an ‘easy fix’, these tools do not address the underlying causes of barking. In fact, they can exacerbate the problem or create alternate problems.
Need professional help? Reach out to one of our partnered trainers!