Teaching your dog to bark less can feel like a daunting task since, just like people, some dogs can be chattier than others. But there is hope! This noisy nuisance can be greatly reduced by adopting a few simple training techniques.
Know the reasons why your dog is barking
To remedy this situation, we have to first identify what is causing your dog to bark excessively. It could be due to:
- A lack of physical or mental stimulation : A dog that does not get enough physical or mental exercise may be bored and unhappy. In these cases, he will either try to communicate his boredom, or he will become overexcited by any passing distraction (by an animal walking by, for example) and bark non-stop. Other dogs may be extremely energetic and may need more physical stimulation than others.
- A need to assert and protect its territory : Some dogs feel a need to assert their territory, and barking is a simple way to do so. Since we place physical barriers around our homes, your dog may feel the need to make his presence known vocally to passersby. If your dog feels threatened, he will use his voice to alert you of any perceived danger, or to let you know that he is on the lookout. If this continues, you may have to investigate what caused his fear.
- The dog’s breed or age: Many breeds of dog are known to bark more than others. Chihuahuas, Rottweilers, Cairn and Scottish terriers, German shepherds, schnauzers and westies are known as dogs that are particularly vocal! Younger dogs, regardless of breed, will tend to bark more than older dogs, whether it be to communicate with others or simply because of youthful exuberance.
- Isolation or loneliness: A dog may bark more if it feels isolated or separated from its owner. If the dog spends most of his time alone or if he is kept in a secluded place with less interaction with people, the dog may quickly become unhappy. Barking may be a way of getting attention.
- Stress: Barking may stem from anxiety. Some dogs may be afraid to be separated from their owner, away from their community. Some may even fear being abandoned, and become very distraught when their owner leaves.
The first step to decreasing your dog’s barking habit is to remember to remain calm yourself so that you do not inadvertently increase his excitement or anxiety. Next, two solutions are available:
- Home-training techniques like ignoring the behaviour and rewards. Begin by ignoring your dog when you get home if he is barking, and waiting until he has quieted down before greeting him with treat rewards and playtime. Continue rewarding your dog whenever he is calm during the day and does not bark, in order to reward the good behaviours that you prefer.
- Professional dog training,either during a class or over a few sessions, can facilitate communication and help your dog learn new habits. This can be particularly useful if you have had difficulties with training in the past, as the professional trainer can give you other tips along the way.