Does this sound familiar? You are sitting on the couch enjoying your favorite movie, when your dog jumps up from his place on the floor and starts barking tirelessly at the wall–in other words, at nothing.
Maybe this annoys you, but you figure that you signed up for the barking when you brought Lucky home, so you have just learned to drown it out. (that is, until you give in with lots of pets and treats). Maybe you find the barking strangely cute. We dog owners can be guilty of adoring just about everything our pets do, after all. That said, the neighbors don’t necessarily feel the same way. Not to mention, barking can wear on even the biggest dog lover’s nerves after a while.
Rest assured: you can stop your dog from barking so much, even if he’s had that nasty habit for a while.
But first, you might be wondering: why won’t my dog stop barking to begin with? Dogs bark for many reasons, including:
In response to stimuli. Some dogs are very sensitive to loud noises. A boom of thunder or the crash of something falling in another room can launch them into a barking fit. Other dogs react very strongly to new sights. For example, if you bring in a new Halloween decoration that your dog is not too fond of, you might not hear the end of it.
To protect their territory. Dogs can be pretty protective of their space. Maybe when an unfamiliar dog or person comes uncomfortably close to your backyard or front door, your dog can’t help going crazy.
Something is bugging them. When you drop a dinner plate or stub your toe, you probably react with a couple choice words. Maybe you curse silently to yourself or just let out a deep sigh. Dogs, too, express their frustration from time to time–for example, when you lock them up when guests come over or when their favorite toy slides under the couch.
They hear other dogs. If the dog across the street barks very loudly every evening, your dog might choose to join in the chorus–perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. This is called social barking.
They want attention. Your dog is your best friend, and he yours. But maybe he takes that best friend relationship to a whole new level: by barking nonstop until you come rub his belly, pat his head, or give him a treat.
They just have a really bad habit. It happens: sometimes bad habits just develop. You can’t stop biting your nails; your dog can’t bite the barking habit. This habit may even be accompanied by other repetitive behaviors like pacing, panting or whimpering.
Whatever the reason your dog can’t stop barking, below are a couple of tried-and-true strategies.
1. Train the Bark Out of Him
You might not have the means to invest in a professional trainer at the moment, and that is okay. You can start with these common commands:
Sit/Stay. The first command most of us teach our dogs. This one is particularly helpful if you have a very territorial dog; you can start telling him to sit and stay the minute you spot a person or another dog approaching in the distance.
Quiet–and speak! No, it is not counterproductive! Teaching your dog both to “speak” and “quiet” on command will reinforce that there is a time for both. When he starts barking, you can tell him to “quiet,” patiently but firmly. Sweeten the deal with a favorite treat.
2. Ignore It
Again, this one seems simple enough, especially if you have a dog who can never seem to get enough attention. If you have always given in when your dog barks–whether by giving him a treat or yelling at him to stop–then he has associated the barking with a positive outcome. If you simply don’t acknowledge it, your dog will likely come to realize that barking really does not pay.
3. Shield Your Dog from the Triggers
If you know that your dog gets overly excited when he looks out the window and spots squirrels and birds, keep him from spotting them in the first place! Simply keep your blinds closed, or at least cover the windows your dog favors with a blanket or curtain.
Outside, things may be a bit trickier; your dog is surrounded by things that excite him! Still, it is not impossible to keep him calm. For example, if your dog goes crazy at the sight of the neighbors’ dog, consider covering the spaces between the fence where your dog can easily see through. You can do this fairly cheaply with some screen.
You might even decorate your yard or store your belongings with your dog’s antics in mind: plant a lovely rosebush near the neighbor’s fence or obstruct your dog’s view with your bicycle and tools.
4. Set Up a “Calm Zone”
We all have that place we like to retire to when we feel overwhelmed. Your dog is no exception. Maybe he gets upset when you leave for work or when you have to lock him up when a friend comes over. Whatever the case, create a space where he feels safe and comfortable; it might be a kennel with his favorite blanket or toy or even just a room that you can lock or secure with a baby gate.
5. Try PetGentle!
If you think a trainer is the best option for your dog’s barking problem but are not sure where to begin, look no further than PetGentle. You can operate this versatile dog-training device with your own two hands! You can bring it anywhere and correct your dog’s poor behavior instantly.
How does it work? When your dog starts his barking fit, simply press the Ultrasonic button. Your dog will then hear a very high pitched noise undetectable to humans–harmless, but annoying enough to make him never want to hear it again. If your dog is extra stubborn, you can use the PetGentle’s LED flashlight to get their attention.