In our Adopter’s Guide series we’re helping you tackle every challenge puppy owners face, so you can spend more time loving your pup and less time training her.
In this post, we’re covering one of the most confusing dog behaviors: barking.
Barking is obviously a natural behavior. We want our dogs to bark if someone breaks in or if there is some type of danger. The problem is, puppies tend to bark at more inopportune times. Whether it's when guests come over or loud cars drive by, inappropriate barking can be disconcerting for dog parents, especially those in apartments or close to neighbors. No one wants their dog to be the reason someone loses sleep!
We have come up with 6 simple steps you can take to reduce inappropriate barking and make your pup's life happier and more peaceful.
Where To Start
First of all, it's vital to know what you need to avoid when training. This will make the process easier and more fun for both of you.
- Don't Yell! Certainly you've heard people try to quiet down a dog through yelling, but all you're doing is “barking” along with your dog! Don't encourage her.
- Don't Be Negative. If you hate training, your dog probably will too! Make sure the experience is fun for both of you.
- Avoid Inconsistencies. Anyone who has trained a dog will tell you staying consistent is key. Make sure everyone in the house enforces the rules in the same way.
Now, let's start training!
1. Remove her motivation.
Is your dog barking at cars and animals outside? Maybe she barks when your neighbors are walking down the street? Move her to another room during the day. Or close the curtains so she can't be stimulated. If she's jumping on the back of the couch to look, consider moving the furniture to a less exciting area.
2. Mask the noise.
This is not always easy for people in apartments or cities, but having a fan or noise machine running near your door or window (wherever she gets the most stimulation) can help muffle the offending noises.
3. Desensitize her.
Have you noticed the way your dog loosens up around new people once she gets to know them? Well, you can help your dog become familiar with just about anything! Identify a particular household item that tends to rile her up and place it about 20 feet from your dog — far enough away that she won't bark, but close enough for her to see it. If she stays quiet, feed her a treat and move the item toward her. Once she starts to bark, stop feeding her and move the item out of sight. Repeat until she realizes she's safe and the item won't harm her. The more things she learns not to bark at, the easier it will be to reduce barking overall.
4. Reward good behavior.
This one fits right along with number 3. Make sure you reward your dog when she responds appropriately without your prompting. If someone comes to the door and your dog behaves appropriately, reward her with a treat or verbal praise! If she stays calm when someone comes home, make sure she knows she's doing things right.
5. Don't encourage her.
This can be a tough one. The natural instinct for any dog owner is to respond to her when she starts barking. But whether you're simply asking her to be quiet, or picking her up to “comfort” her, your response only gives her what she wants: attention. Even if she barks for 10 minutes, ignore it. If you snap or respond after 11 minutes, your dog will simply bark for 12 minutes the next time.
6. Keep her tired!
It is tough for your dog to bark if she is exhausted! Often barking can be linked to boredom or excess energy. To mitigate it, keep her active and always keep a variety of toys on hand for her to play with! Whether it's a plush toy, tennis ball or rubber bone, identify your dog's favorite type and keep them stocked.
Or better yet, give her more challenging toys to keep her mentally and physically engaged even longer. This step is not only the easiest, but also the most important.
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