A common complaint that we hear from pet parents is that there is too much barking happening in day to day life. As we know, barking is a normal dog behavior. Most of us are fine with it to an extent, but would love to be able to stop it after a moment or two. If you want to decrease barking in your home, try following these three steps. 1. Figure out why it’s happening There are many forms of barking. Some examples include attention seeking barking, spooky barking and watch dog barking. If you can’t figure it out for sure, consider hiring a qualified dog trainer. (We do remote sessions for this sort of thing!) It’s important to know what the cause is because how we curb it changes based on the cause. For example, if you try to punish a dog for spooky barking, you’re likely going to make the scary thing even scarier! Once you know the cause you’re ready for step 2. 2. It’s time for prevention and management This step alone can curb a lot of the barking. The overall idea is to set up your home so that your dog isn’t able to see or hear the things that are causing the barking. This can include closing blinds, putting on a white noise machine or even using frosted glass window stickers. Or if it’s demand or attention seeking barking, having your dog out of sight behind a gate with something special to work on while you do what you have to do. Some people put a prevention and management plan in place and it stops the barking enough so they don’t feel the need to move on to step 3. But, step 3 is all about teaching a new behavior or changing how a dog feels about the scary thing. 3. Training and behavior modification Now that we know what’s causing the barking and we have a plan in place to prevent and manage, we’re ready to either teach a new behavior or focus on building positive associations with the scary stuff. Teaching new behaviors is pretty straightforward. If your dog is standing next to you barking while you’re trying to eat your meal, we generally teach a down/stay for random food rewards. This can serve as an incompatible behavior. The trickier part is when a dog is barking due to fear. This is where we turn the scary thing into a predictor of awesome stuff. This is know as counter conditioning. We also pair this with desensitization. For slight fear, pet parents often can get through it on their own. For dogs that are quite afraid, generally a qualified trainer is needed to help and it’s common to work with the pet parent’s veterinarian as well. If you want to decrease barking, try following these three steps to see if it’s something you can do on your own or whether you need the help from a qualified professional.
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