The key to reducing and even preventing barking is to understand why your dog is barking in the first place.
When you learn what your dog hopes to gain from barking, you can show them that they can get what they want by behaving in a calmer, quieter way.
You may also be able to make changes to your dog’s living space, so they no longer feel the need to bark.
1. Don't tell your dog off
Although their barking may be frustrating, never tell your dog off.
Telling them off could make them anxious or confused about you. This could make things worse; encouraging them to bark even more in worry or confusion.
Some dogs might even see you shouting as you joining in and making noise with them.
2. Avoid things your dog finds scary
If your dog is barking because they are scared, try to avoid the scary thing as much as possible.
For example, if your dog barks at passers-by through a window, cover this up to block their view.
If they bark because they are scared of being alone, try to avoid leaving them as much as possible. Consider using a pet sitter or dog-walker.
Scared dogs might need further support from a behaviourist to find out exactly what they’re scared of and help them change the way they feel.
3. Teach your dog calmer ways of telling you what they want
If your dog is barking for something specific, like to make another dog go away, it’s useful to teach them that doing something quieter and safer will get them the same result.
For example, your dog can’t bark and sniff at the same time. So, diverting their attention to the floor to sniff out tasty treats instead of barking can be very effective. Doing this consistently will teach them that quietly ignoring something, rather than barking, has a good outcome.
4. Make sure your pooch is staying active
Your dog may be more likely to bark if they’re bored and not getting enough mental or physical exercise.
Make sure you spend quality time keeping your dog engaged and active each day.
Providing your pal with lots of fun activities will prevent them becoming bored – and will be a load of fun for you both.
5. Don't reward your dog for barking
Reward them for staying quiet instead.
If your dog barks at mealtimes, ignore the barking and wait for them to stop before feeding them.
Plan ahead and distract them by giving them a toy when you know you’ll be preparing them a snack.
If your dog barks to get you to play with them, ignore them. Turn away from your dog or even leave the room and do something else instead.
When they are quiet, pick up a toy and invite them to play – a fun game is an excellent reward for being quiet.
When you know what makes your dog bark, avoid this by distracting them with a fun toy or treat before they feel the need.
Prevention is best, as your dog may become confused when you start ignoring their barks. They might bark more and with more intensity to get you to behave as you used to
If this happens, stay calm and give them lots of praise and attention when they quiet down. They need to learn that quietness brings them the reward they want.
Stay consistent, as giving in and responding to their barking, even if just the once, is likely to teach them to persist and try even harder.
It might also be worth letting your neighbours know that the barking may get worse before it gets better (and maybe drop them a box of chocolates to sweeten the deal), so they’re prepared.
Any problems or changes in your dog’s behaviour are always worth a chat with your vet as there could be medical reasons. If necessary, they will also be able to refer you to a qualified behaviourist who can give you personalised support and guidance.
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