Pet Ownership Tips
Barking is a perfectly normal and natural canine behavior; it is one of the ways that dogs communicate. Continually punishing a dog for barking is like punishing birds for singing. Barking in itself is not abnormal, but barking for excessive amounts of time or barking at inappropriate times is certainly an annoying problem.
Dogs that are socially isolated or confined for long periods of time require some form of occupational therapy to pass the time of day. A dog that is left alone all day is given ample opportunity to take up barking as a hobby, because no one is there to control it. In no time at all, barking becomes an enjoyable habit. Once they start barking, they tend to continue to make noise, probably out of the sheer joy of being able to do something.
The first step in obtaining peace and quiet is realizing that most dogs bark because they are lonely, bored, frustrated, or frightened. These are all things that you can help alleviate. A well exercised, happy dog will contentedly sleep the day away while you are not home. Play with your dog. Develop a relationship. Get on the floor and have fun with your pet companion - spend time with it.
Dogs are social creatures. They need friends and companionship. Dogs romping around and playing together tire rapidly and will sleep happily while recovering from the good, hard play session. Dogs need to bark. Barking is a normal, natural, necessary canine behavior; however, your goal should be to get it under control.
Reward Appropriate Behavior
Many owners are eager to reprimand the dog for barking, but few remember to praise it when it is quiet, whether it was having a little quiet moment on its own initiative, or whether it was instructed to "BE QUIET." Too many owners fall into the trap of forcefully commanding the dog to be quiet, but then saying nothing and virtually ignoring the dog if it obeys. In fact, many owners restrict their feedback to severely reprimanding the dog if it barks again. With this approach, training becomes an unpleasant series of punishments, and all the dog learns is not to bark when the owner is around, i.e., the owner creates an owner-absent problem. Also, if the dog is barking because it wants attention, even the negative attention of being scolded is a reward from the dog's point of view. As a rule of thumb: for each reprimand for barking, there should be at least ten times that the dog is praised for being quiet.
Teaching the Dog to "Be Quiet"
Just as a dog can learn the meaning of the word "SIT" and obey on command, so it can learn the meaning of the word "QUIET" and obey on command. Each time the dog barks, after two or three woofs, it should first be praised for sounding the alarm and then softly requested to be quiet. After requesting the dog to be quiet, you must devote your full attention to the dog. If the dog remains quiet, it should be continuously praised, but if it barks again, it should be immediately and effectively reprimanded. As training proceeds, the required period of silence is progressively increased.
When teaching the dog to "sit-stay," you can't expect it to remain in a "stay" for 20 minutes right from the start. You begin by teaching it to stay for just a few seconds, and gradually build up the time period. It's exactly the same for the "QUIET" command. Your initial goals must be realistic. At first, "QUIET" means silence for only 3 to 5 seconds. Gradually and progressively increase it to 10, 20, 30 seconds and so on.
The training sequence is as follows: After three barks, say "Good dog" and then quietly request the dog to "BE QUIET." If the dog stops barking, it should be praised immediately and continuously, with an extra special reward if it remains quiet for a full three seconds. One way to help the dog stay quiet is to keep talking to it quietly. You may softly count the three seconds out loud, interspersing a "Good dog" between each count.
The great secret of this method is that once you have requested the dog to be quiet, you must devote absolute attention to the dog for the specified length of time. Timing is of the essence. The effectiveness of the reprimand lies in its being delivered within one half second following the first disobedient bark. Similarly, the effectiveness of the praise will be increased if it comes the moment the dog stops barking.
Barking Dog Tips
For tips about how to train a dog not to bark excessively, please see the link to helpful resources under External Links below.