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Stop Barking - Simple Things to Try

Sep 9, 2008
Communication with your dog is a constant process and they are always watching and interpreting.

Your Communication.
Your attitude and body language is very important. I did my college dissertation on Non Verbal Communication which is reputed to be 75%+ of human communication. It's the belief of many that dogs 'read' that language really well and react accordingly.

What you say and how you say it must be consistent. Your posture and tone must confident and direct. If you don't believe you are in charge why will your dog?
Hesitant tones will not work and sends your dog a mixed message...in the absence of direction they will keep barking. And even worse your command authority diminishes. You have to be the boss.

Training Dogs is a Family Effort
Training a dog is really a case of Train the Trainer. You, the owner (or owners), have to be trained. A key point to keep in mind is consistency...if there are 4 family members, they are all trainers and you should all handle your dogs training the same way every time. Confused humans will lead to a confused and still barking dog. Agree on your commands - have one set only. Put this list on the 'fridge or on the bathroom mirror until everyone is on the same page. See what I mean by training? :)

Reinforcement
Psychology has shown us that a behavior that is NOT reinforced either positively or negatively will go away. But what does that mean?

Well if your dog barks and you yell at him to shut up, you are reinforcing the barking. Even though yelling seems negative to you, your dog is getting your attention, which is reinforcing in itself. He may even think you're barking, which helps sustain his barking.

If you attempt to calm him with petting or treats. This again reinforces the barking, because your dog learns that when he barks, he gets treats and or love.
I can see the penny dropping...yes! That is exactly why he barks despite all the love and treats you gave him!

So a change in mindset is needed. Try this.
Ignore his barking totally. Sometimes this works really well as the dog gets the message quickly. It's a tough one as you have to not respond no matter how long they bark.

An added level is to not only ignore the behavior but to also leave the room. So he gets no response and he gets left alone. Neither of which your dog wants. Absolutely no reinforcement. It can be very effective but consistency is key.

However a puzzling issue for some owners is that a bored or lonely dog will often bark for company and attention. You have to work out which it is. You can easily find out by taking him for a walk or playing with him. However wait until he has stopped barking before doing it or he will link the two.

Distractions
This is a combination of commands and distraction. If you create another noise such as clapping your hands it can be enough to startle and stop the barking - as you do that say 'Quiet' once he stops, pet and treat him. You must use the command otherwise you'll spend the rest of your life clapping.

Water is the more drastic distraction method. Some people use a squirt bottle or water pistol. The dog will likely stop barking as it tries to work out what just happened. Again say 'Quiet' and pet and treat him when he obeys.

Never aim at the face, aim for your dog's body. Dogs like humans are very sensitive about their face and if they feel threatened there, it may result in other negative behavior such as growling if they are approached.
About the Author
Be your own dog whisperer...learn about tools, tips and techniques at my blog
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