How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking
According to our expert, this can include teaching commands, incompatible behaviors, and positive reinforcement.
Dogs communicate in two main ways: through their body language and with barking. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. "Dogs should most definitely be allowed to bark sometimes. Expecting a dog to never bark is like expecting a cat to never meow," explains Andrea Arden, New York-based dog trainer, pet expert on Animal Planet, and the author of several books including The Little Book of Dog Tricks and Barron's Dog Training Bible. "The goal is to provide your dog with enough physical and mental exercise and enrichment, and to teach them good manners and responsiveness so that they don't bark excessively and so that you have a way of calmly and effectively having them quiet down when requested." But how do you train your dog to stop barking inappropriately?
Start at home: Dogs are less likely to bark at inappropriate times when they have enough mental and physical stimulation in their environment. Your dog should also be properly socialized, Arden says, which means introducing him to normal daily environments and teaching him how to behave. Can your dog stay and sit next to you when he sees a squirrel? Does your dog keep calm around strangers when you go on a walk at the park? You may need to make adjustments to manage the situation, like keeping a firm grip on your dog's leash, but your dog understands what you expect.
First, recognize that your dog gets some kind of reward when he barks. Otherwise, he wouldn't do it. If he barks at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage his behavior by closing the curtains or do as Arden suggests: "Try having them sleep in a bed or crate in an area of the home that is as far away from doors and windows as possible so they are less likely to be triggered by sounds outside." If he barks at passersby when he's in the yard, bring him into the house. And, of course, never leave your dog outside unsupervised all day and night.
When your dog does bark, ignore it. Don't talk to him, don't touch him, and don't even look at him. Otherwise, he only learns that barking will eventually get your attention. When he finally quiets down, reward him with a treat. To be successful with this method, especially in crate-training, you must wait as long as it takes for him to stop barking. As he catches on that being quiet earns him a treat, lengthen the amount of time he must remain quiet before being rewarded.
There are also a few commands that can be taught—"quiet," which can be trained in reverse of the command to "speak," or "go to your place," which instructs your dog to go to his floor mat when he starts barking. This kind of incompatible behavior inhibits your dog from barking, and should be first practiced in a calm environment with no distractions.
Ultimately, this is all part of your dog's training process. Fido should understand your cues and know your expectations of him when you're out together in public, host visitors at home, or when it's time to settle down for the night. "Essentially, it is about developing a relationship with your dog so they are happy to comply with your requests," Arden says. "In the case of barking, the request would be for a behavior that refocuses them on you and stops the barking."