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A recent ad posted went something like this: “Looking to rehome small terrier. Barks lots. Let me know if you’re interested, and I will jump the neighbor's fence and bring it to you!”
Nobody likes a dog that barks, cries or whines constantly. Not only is your dog annoying you, but your dog can make you pretty unpopular with friends and neighbors in a hurry if he cannot learn to be quiet when appropriate. While it is natural for a dog to bark sometimes, to warn you someone or something is approaching or to communicate a need with you, such as “let me in”, a dog that barks all the time, for no reason, or one that vocalizes constantly when left alone, needs to be corrected before they become a nuisance.
Teaching your dog to be quiet will make him a much more pleasant pet, and keep him from disturbing your family and your neighbors. Being able to direct your dog to ‘be quiet’, and have your dog cease barking, or vocalizing, and possibly initiate an alternative behavior is extremely useful both at home and away from home. The sooner you teach your dog to be quiet, as a puppy, the easier it will be, but older dogs that have developed a barking habit can also be taught to be quiet, it just takes a little longer.
If your dog is in the habit of barking due to boredom, or to get your attention, correcting the behavior may involve providing an alternate way to occupy your dog and removing any positive reinforcement for barking. Although, it may seem counterintuitive, one of the most effective ways to teach your dog to be quiet starts with teaching him to ‘speak’ on command. Once you have designated this as a behavior that can be directed, directing your dog with a ‘be quiet’ command can be accomplished more easily.
Teaching your dog to be quiet requires consistency and patience. Make sure everyone in the household is involved to keep training consistent. Avoid yelling at your dog when he barks, as your vocalizations sound like barking to your dog, and he may think you are just joining in. You will need treats to reward appropriate quiet behavior, and possibly an assistant to create situations in which your dog barks.
The Barking on Command Method
Allow a trigger to occur that causes your dog to bark, such as someone approaching the door. Say “speak” when your dog starts barking, let him bark a few times, then provide a treat. A good smelly treat held in front of his nose will cause him to stop barking to get the treat.
Repeat step 1 over a period of several days, until your dog will speak when you provide the speak command. This makes him aware of his behavior and puts it on command.
Find a quiet environment free of distractions. Give the speak command, followed by the ‘quiet’ command. Do not raise your voice for the quiet command. When your dog stops barking, wait a few seconds then give him the treat. If he continues barking, wait for him to stop barking, repeat the ‘quiet’ command, and then reward.
Move to a more distracting environment, have someone ring a doorbell, or take your dog into the yard where a squirrel is present or another dog is across the fence. Wait for your dog to start barking and work on the ‘quiet’ command in the more distracting situation.
Repeat 'speak' and 'quiet'
Repeat daily for several weeks, practicing the ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’ commands in a variety of circumstances, until you can reliably command your dog's vocalizations.
The Reward Quiet Method
Confine your dog in an area where he will not disturb others, like a crate in the house or garage.
When your dog starts barking from boredom, or to get attention, completely ignore him. Do not yell at him, touch him, or even look at him. Do not give in for any reason or your dog will bark even longer next time.
When your dog stops barking or vocalizing, even for a few seconds or to catch his breath, give him attention, praise him, and provide a treat. Let him out of the crate or confined area.
Repeat the process. On your next session, require your dog to stop barking a little longer before providing a treat and releasing him.
Continue to extend the time required until your dog learns that barking will be ignored and being quiet will result in reward. If your dog barks from boredom, provide him with something to do, such as a puzzle feeder or chew toy, to help him entertain himself during this process. Reward your dog when he stop vocalizing and plays with his toy.
The Desensitize Method
Identify your dog's barking trigger. A cat, the doorbell, the vacuum cleaner, or whatever gets him vocalizing uncontrollably.
Create the trigger. If necessary, have an assistant come to the door, ask a neighbor to bring their cat into the yard, etc. Keep your dog the maximum distance away possible, or muffle the sound, with ear plugs for your dog, or a cloth stuffed in the door bell ringer, so that your dog does not immediately start barking when he sees or hear the stimulus.
Provide your dog with lots of yummy treats and attention when the stimulus occurs and he does not bark.
Gradually bring the stimulus closer or make it louder. If your dog barks, do not provide treats, but if he remains quiet, give lots of treats and attention. You are teaching your dog to associate the stimulus with positive reinforcement.
Repeat over a number of days, it may take several weeks to desensitize your dog to the stimulus and teach him that he will be rewarded for being quiet in the presence of the stimulus.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 11/14/2017, edited: 01/08/2021