How Do I Handle Barking?

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Anne answers reader’s random questions

Questions about curbing barking are the single most commonly asked question on “Ask the Trainer”


Barking Westie

HI, I have a Westie and she barks at just about anything she sees out the window.  even when a squirrel runs by she does.  Do you have any suggestions on how to nicely get her to not bark so much? 

Chrissy in Metford

Dear Chrissy,
It depends on what you mean by nicely.  If you don’t like your dogs behavior you are going to have to be willing to correct her when she does it.  It doesn’t have to be a harsh correction.  For instance, you could squirt her with a water bottle when she barks.  This generally discourages barking.  Or, when she barks at things out the window say “quiet” and if she doesn’t stop within 1-2 seconds, immediately pick her up, hold her muzzle shut and say “quiet” very firmly.  Put her down and shut the curtain.  She has lost her window privileges.  If she does stop praise her lavishly and sit and look out the window with her.  Tell her what a smart girl she is and what a brilliant choice she has made.  (Start praising her quickly because she may only stop for a second or two in the beginning).  She will soon learn that if she stops barking when she hears “quiet” she will get to continue to look out the window.  If she barks, the window disappears. 

If you are unwilling to correct her for barking then you could teach her a very good “come” command and call her to you each time she starts to bark.  However, be careful, if you call her and give her a treat each time she barks it could actually encourage the barking because she will learn that if she barks you call her over for a treat. 

The other option that would involve no correction whatsoever is keeping the window shade closed at all times.  Although, that’s sort of punishing for everyone involved if no one gets to look out the window and enjoy natural light. 

 
Barking Pom
I have a pomeranian male 10 months old. I can’t get him to stop barking when he is outdoors. He loves being outside, but the barking has to stop. He barks at the wind even. The Citronella collar has not been successful. Also he is still marking furniture in the house. Any suggestions?

Jenny

Hi Jenny, 
I have a dog with very similar behaviors.  He absolutely loves his yard and is thrilled every time I let him out, but the barking was out of control.  I read every book I could find on training a dog out of barking. I tried every solution known to humans. I tried the citronella collar and it did little if anything to discourage his barking. 

After trying long lines, slow desensitization, counter-conditioning, startles, yelling, and pretty much every other remedy in the book I bought an electronic bark collar.  The barking stopped immediately.  He still runs wildly and had just as much fun outside, but without the barking.  He practically thrusts himself into his bark collar because it means he gets to go outside.  All I could think was “what took me so long?”

So, given everything you have tried, I would try an electronic bark collar next.  Some people are hesitant to use one because they don’t want to inflict pain on their dog.  The sensation of the e-collar is similar to the feeling of touching a metal filing cabinet in the winter.  You can always test the collar yourself before putting it on the dog.  You will find the sensation annoying but not painful. Plus, all the dog has to do to avoid the annoyance is not bark.  Works for everyone. 

The catch with the bark collar (citronella or electronic) is that they only work when the dog is wearing it.  It will not train your dog not to bark.

As far as the marking, if you have not already had him neutered, start there.  We can address the house training aspect of your question in another column.

 
Barking Lab 
How do you train a dog not to bark at people? 

My 3yr. old yellow lab has learned this bad habit from the dog next door.  We do not want to use a bark collar.  She mainly barks for the following reasons:
-Someone walking by.
-Neighbors out in their yards.
-Seeing movement in the windows of neighboring houses.
-Initiates, or participates, in the neighborhood dog “twilight bark”.  Either she will hear other dogs barking and talk to them, or she will initiate the onset of the twilight bark, looking for others to talk to.  
She is well monitored by family members, and not left outside for extended periods, mostly just to go to the bathroom.

We are looking implementation techniques (with the verbal command: “Quiet”) in curbing this bad habit. 

Terri in Eden Prairie

Dear Terri, 
If you want to teach the dog “Quiet” without using a bark collar what you would need to do is implement what we trainers call a desensitization/counter-conditioning program.  This means that through very slow, controlled exposure you teach your dog to associate each of the stimuli that triggers her barking with something good (usually food).  This will eventually teach her to look to you for a treat rather than bark at the stimulus. 

Many people are probably reading this wondering “does this mean you always have to have food on you?”  The answer to that is “yes, for a while.” You can eventually wean the food to an extent.  However, if you were to use a bark collar you would always have to use a bark collar, so either way, you are always going to have to have something. To learn how to do a desensitization/classical conditioning program you could either buy a book (I recommend the Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson or The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell) or hire a professional trainer to walk you through it. 

 
Barking Pack

HELP!  My husband and I have 5 wonderful dogs of varying shapes, ages, and size.  With the nicer weather we all love to spend time outdoors in our 1/2 acre fenced backyard.  The problem is when any of the dogs sees or hears another person/animal the barking begins….not just one dog, but all five of them.  Our efforts to stop the barking seem futile although they do seem to stop after a couple of minutes.  How do we train ourselves and our dogs to change this behavior? Everyone in our neighborhood – including us – would appreciate some advice.
 
Stacy & Bill 
Lakeville


Dear Stacy and Bill

Wow!  You’ve got quite a pack going on there.  That’s really cool!  As far as their barking, it’s pretty common that one dog will hear something s/he perceives alarming and warns the pack with barking.  Then they all join in.  Read How to Speak Dog, by Stanley Coheren.  As I recall he talks about it in there.

As far as what to do, you have two options.  

1.  Work with each dog individually and slowly desensitize them to every stimulus that causes them to bark and eventually, once every dog is desensitized allow them out together again.  (I would suggest enlisting a professional trainer to help you implement this program.  The trainer may even have some suggestions for working with all the dogs at once.)
Or

2. Buy bark collars. 


About the Author: 

Anne Hendrickson is a dog trainer and owner of Downtown Dogs Daycare and Boarding. Her passion is helping pets and their people get the best from each other and giving everyone the best quality of life possible. She is a mom to two fur and one human baby.

For more information on Downtown Dogs Minneapolis call (612) 374-DOGS or E-mail: anne@DowntownDogsMinneapolis.com

The information and views presented in this article are not necessarily the views of WCCO-TV or CBS.  This article is provided by a third party to expand the information available to visitors of WCCO.COM.

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