If your dog is a barker, you may not be welcoming the warmer weather. With more joggers and children playing outdoors, there are more things than ever to trigger excessive barking. But take heart, you can control the situation. Understanding why you have an excessive barker is the first step in solving the problem. Here are the most common causes of constant barking:
Loneliness. A dog that is home alone for long periods is likely to bark because he feels anxious.
Conditioning. Your dog may bark because you have inadvertently trained him to do so. Think about it: He barks and you open the door to let him out. He barks again and you let him back in. He barks, and you give him attention. He may even bark for a treat—and then you give him one.
Inactivity. Lack of exercise can result in a dog that has pent-up energy and barks out of frustration. A well-exercised dog is more likely to sleep when you're not there.
How to tame the dog that cries wolf
- Take your dog for at least two 20-minute walks each day (if he's physically fit enough), or head to the park for a game of fetch. Dogs that spend most of their time in the backyard or in the house need regular exercise.
- Visit the same park daily or weekly and let him make doggy friends. Dogs are social creatures. Plus, it's true that a tired dog is a good dog.
- Give your dog something to do when he is home alone. Instead of barking, your dog can keep himself busy by earning his food. Fill a hollow chew toy with a biscuit or two. If you don't mind a little mess, you can also pack it with canned food and freeze it, so it takes a long time for your dog to get the food out. Some dogs are also entertained by animal videos. You can learn more about them in our article DVDs Your Dog Will Love. Many dogs bark at everything that moves within their view in the street outside the house. To lessen this type of "I see it, therefore I must announce it" barking, close window shades when you leave the house.
- Attach an unpleasant experience to inappropriate barking. Never strike your dog, but do something that will catch his attention, such as clanking an empty soda can half-filled with coins or squirting water toward him. Do not look at him while doing this, or reprimand him for barking. (These actions can reinforce the behavior because you will be giving your dog the attention he seeks.) As soon as your dog stops barking, instantly reward him for quieting down: the appropriate behavior you want him to learn.
- Teach your dog a "quiet" command. After each time your dog barks, give him a command of "quiet" or "no bark". Simultaneously, hold a treat in front of your dog's nose. Most dogs get quiet immediately because they can't sniff the treat and bark at the same time. Lavish praise on your dog during his quiet time. After three seconds of no barking, let him have the treat. As you continue with your training, increase the amount of time you require him to be quiet before giving the treat.
While you can't calm your dog's constant barking overnight, you can retrain him to bark only when necessary. Be prepared that it may take weeks to establish new habits. Just be consistent with the training, you will see a new pattern of appropriate barking develop.