How to stop your dog from barking without losing your patience
Most dog owners know that life with a dog can be noisy sometimes. It's just fair trade for all the unconditional love and snuggles, right?
Sometimes, though, your pooch may take barking to the extreme and that can quickly wear on your nerves — and your neighbors' patience.
So what are you to do if you have a dog whose barker just won't quit? Are you saddled with that noise for years to come? Fortunately, many experts say there are things you can do to keep that yapping to a minimum.
Why dogs bark
Before you can put an end to your dog's incessant barking, you need to know why it's doing it in the first place. According to Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM, there are many possible reasons, including boredom, fear, play, anxiety or lack of attention. "Sometimes it’s just a bad habit that needs correction," she adds. "The best thing to do in that situation is to work with a professional dog trainer or at least develop a new way to correct the dog’s behavior."
Carol reminds us that barking is a natural instinct for dogs and a way they communicate, so it's important to excuse a certain amount of the noise — especially if the dog's barks are usually a warning to a perceived threat or in response to unfamiliar sounds.
How to stop the noise
Dog trainer Robert Cabral says many dogs are simply seeking attention with their barking, so acknowledging that barking only makes it worse. "When dogs bark, it is best to ignore them until they are quiet, and then 'mark' that behavior with attention or a treat," he explains.
If your dog is just bored, excessive barking is easy to correct. Give it some extra loving and take the time to play, and when that's just not in the schedule, make sure it has plenty of toys or a bone to chew. If your dog is occupied by something else, it won't be as inclined to start barking.
If your dog is barking from fear, Carol says the best thing to do is comfort your pup. "If scary situations are the culprit, for example, the loud noise of a vacuum, then do your best to soothe, calm and reassure your canine that everything is fine and there is no cause for alarm, or in this case barking," she says. "Try to instill confidence in your canine by being confident yourself."
If you have a dog that feels the need to alert you every time a leaf blows by the window, it may just be trying to protect its loved ones. According to Denise Petryk, DVM, the best way to deal with this kind of barking is to establish yourself as the alpha to your pup. "When your dog sees you as the alpha leader, the dog will not feel the need to worry about protecting itself or the family.
Still no results? Try these tips from experts to help stop the noise:
- Create a distraction by asking your dog to perform a command.
- Initiate play to get its mind on something else.
- Turn on a TV or some music to filter out some of the outside noises.
- Close blinds or use other methods to block your dog's view of the outside.
If simple modifications don't work, you may need to employ the use of some training tools to help teach your dog to bark less. It's important to find training tools that do not hurt, startle or frighten your dog and that won't interfere with your relationship with it. Carol recommends the following tools:
- Gentle leaders: These painless head collars help to gently close your dog's mouth to prevent excess barking.
- Spray bark collars: Carol recommends bark collars that spray citronella when the dog barks. Dogs dislike this smell, so it's usually effective.
- Ultrasonic bark collars: Noise bark collars that emit high-pitched ultrasonic noises that dogs dislike each time the dog barks.