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How to Train Your Dog to Not Bark in the Morning

How to Train Your Dog to Not Bark in the Morning
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-6 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

It all started when the dog had an upset tummy. In the early hours of the morning, he barked and, realizing this was unusual, you let got up and let him out for a toilet break. Disaster averted, you went back to bed. A short while later the dog barked again. Same thing. You let him out. 

Unfortunately, while his tummy is now back to normal, his barking habit seems well established. He has his own internal alarm clock which goes off about half an hour before you want to rise, and he barks. He even does this on the weekend when you want to sleep in. This is becoming a real issue now, as it seems a lifetime since you had a decent slow start in the morning, and you're accumulating a sleep debt, which is making you grumpy. 

If only there was something you could do about his early morning barking...

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Defining Tasks

Barking in the morning can be a hard habit to break. This is because it's a 'self-rewarding' behavior. In other words, the dog wakes up and barks, and a short time later Mom appears with breakfast. In the dog's mind, it's a straight join-the-dots between barking and breakfast. 

There is no magic involved in breaking this habit. Success depends on not responding to the barking and only rewarding silence. However, this pitches you against a dog's natural instincts to bark louder and for longer, when ignored. The first hurdle is to be aware this 'extinction burst' behavior is normal and to be expected, so that you can stick with the plan and see things through. 

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Getting Started

This training doesn't require special equipment, so much as an awareness of the importance of timing. 

You will mainly need: 

  • A dog crate
  • A comfortable dog bed
  • A collar and leash to take the dog for toilet breaks
  • The dog's breakfast (to reward him with when he's quiet)
  • The odd treat or titbit

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The Prevention Method

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1

Understand the idea

Prevent is better than cure! OK, this might be too late for your dog, but read on none-the-less because it helps you understand what's going through the dog's mind, which will help with retraining. Preventing morning barking occurring in the first place, is about being careful not to accidentally reward the dog 's bark with attention or food. By only greeting the dog when he is calm and quiet, you can avoid this.

2

Cause and effect

Understand what's going through your dog's mind. Modern training is based on a system of rewards: When a dog performs a desired action he is rewarded, which encourages him to repeat the activity next time. Similarly, if the dog barks in the morning and you appear with breakfast, he has just been rewarded. Effectively, giving him breakfast is rewarding the barking, and therefore he's more likely to bark tomorrow.

3

Consider crate training

Crate training can be a boon to teaching more settled behavior in the morning. The crate acts as the dog's den, a safe place where he can rest without being disturbed. This also means he's less likely to see the neighbor walking to work, which could set the dog off barking. Likewise, the dog is confined while you get up and ready, which makes it easier to ignore the dog until he is quiet (and you then reward the calm behavior with attention)

4

Only enter when the dog is quiet

Be it a puppy or dog, only enter the room when he is quiet. This teaches him that good behavior (rather than barking) is rewarded and makes breakfast more likely to happen.

5

Ignore the dog

If the dog is barking but you have to enter to get ready for work, then it's essential to ignore the dog. He has to learn that barking earns a cold shoulder, and it's only when he's calm that he gets breakfast.

The Extinction Bursts Method

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1

Understand the idea

Your dog barks in the morning and you have been advised that ignoring him is essential. Only when his barking doesn't get what he wants, will he learn to be quiet. This is all well and good in theory, except your dog hasn't read the manual. Instead of being quiet, the barking has got worse, way worse, and now you're at your wit's end. What you're experiencing is something called 'extinction burst' activity, and a necessary stage that the dog has to work through in order for him to get the message.

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What is an extinction burst?

Have you ever got into an elevator and pressed the button to close the doors but nothing happened? Did you wait patiently or press the button again? If you pressed the button, and the doors still stayed open, the chances are you beat that button with your fingertip. This is an example of extinction burst behavior. Basically, when you don't get the expected response to a behavior, you ramp up the behavior in the expectation of making the thing happen.

3

Why your dog's barking has gotten worse

You have done the right thing and now ignore the dog, not letting him out of the crate despite the crazy barking. His barking has gotten worse...way worse. What's happening here is that regular barking didn't get your attention, so your dog assumes you didn't hear and ramped up the volume. When still he doesn't get attention, he decides that it must be the length of time he's expected to bark that's changed. Instead of a bark getting an immediate response, he thinks he needs to bark for 5, 10, 15, or even 30 minutes in order to get breakfast.

4

Why giving in is a bad idea

OK, so the dog barks for a full 30 minutes before you snap and shout at him to be quiet and put his breakfast down. Bliss! At least he's quiet while he's eating. However, this was a bad idea. The dog now clocks up the 30 minutes of barking is required to get what he wants, which is the exact opposite of what you are aiming for.

5

Only reward quiet and calm

Instead, it's essential you only reward the dog when he's quiet. Be aware that most dogs will pause from time to time, in order to listen to see if anyone has taken notice. If necessary, take advantage of this albeit brief silence to say "Good boy" and toss him a treat. Repeat this and the periods of silence will slowly grow more frequent. Similarly, only let him out of the crate when he's quiet, as a reward for this good (non-barking) behavior.

The Do's and Don'ts Method

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Do: Ensure the dog doesn't deed the potty

Particularly if your dog is elderly, barking in the morning could be a sign they need a comfort break. If you suspect this is the case, only go to the dog in a pause (however brief) between the volleys of barking. This way the dog gets his comfort break, but his barking isn't rewarded.

2

Don't: Shout at the dog to be quiet

Dogs can be strange creatures, in that they look on attention...any sort of attention...as a form of reward. Thus, if you yell at the dog to be quiet, he may well be secretly pleased and feel validated that barking is an appropriate thing to do. It's better to bite your tongue and ignore the dog, knowing that at least this way you aren't making things worse for the next day.

3

Do: Teach the 'quiet' command

Learn how to teach a dog not to bark and be quiet on cue. This involves teaching the dog to bark on command (usually easy to do!) and when he's eating his reward for barking - gently hold his muzzle and say "quiet".

4

Do: Ensure the dog is settled and comfortable

If the dog wakes because of hunger or boredom, then he may decide to bark and see what happens. Simple ways to promote him sleeping through include giving a small snack about half an hour before bedtime, and then letting the dog out for a comfort break immediately before lights out. Also, be sure to give the dog plenty of exercise in the day and the evening, so that he's pleasantly tired and more likely to have a good snooze.

5

Don't: Despair

When all else fails, your last resort may be a dog bed or blanket in a corner of the bedroom. Simply being in your presence and knowing that you are not yet awake, may reassure the dog that the day hasn't started yet and he's OK to continue lying in.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 01/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Ollie

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German Spitz

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1 Year

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When I leave for work early in the morning ollie barks non stop till I come home waking all the neighbours in the morning I don’t know what to do to help I take him out for a short walk in the morning but it doesn’t seem to help

July 13, 2022

Ollie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello James, There are a couple of routes you can take with the separation anxiety, depending on how pup responds and the severity of it. There is also something called separation boredom, which is not really anxiety but rather boredom based. Giving pup things to do, like dog food stuffed kongs, can help with boredom based issues. For anxiety, the first step is to work on building his independence and his confidence by adding a lot of structure and predictability into his routine. Things such as making him work for rewards like meals, walks, and pets. Working on "Stay" and "Place," commands while you move away or leave the room, and teaching him to remain inside a crate when the door is open. Change your routine surrounding leaving so that he does not anticipate alone time and build up his anxiety before you leave - which is hard for him to deescalate from, and be sure to continue to give him something to do in the crate during the day (such as a dog food stuffed Kong to chew on). Also, practice the Surprise method from the article I have linked below. If pup does fine out of the crate and the case is mild, you can do this in a dog proofed room instead of crate, but if pup is destructive when left alone or has potty accidents, pup is probably being given freedom out of the crate too soon, and needs to be crated while you are away until he is past that destructive phase around 18 months; this is the general protocol for separation anxiety. It is gentle but can take a very long time on its own for some dogs with more severe cases. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Another protocol involves teaching the dog to cope with their own anxiety by making their current anxious go-to behaviors unpleasant, giving them an opportunity to stop those behaviors long enough to learn something new, then rewarding the correct, calmer behavior instead. This protocol can feel harsh because it involves careful correction, but it tends to work much quicker for many dogs. If you go this route, I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced using both positive reinforcement and fair correction. Who is extremely knowledgeable about e-collar training, and can follow the protocol listed below, to help you implement the training. Building his independence and structure in his life will still be an important part of this protocol too. First, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU Second, you will need an interrupter, such as an electronic collar, e-collar, with a wide range of levels. I recommend purchasing only high quality brands though. For example, E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator or Garmin Delta Sport or Dogtra for this. If you are not comfortable with an e-collar then you can use a vibration collar (the Mini Educator and Garmin should also have a vibration mode) or unscented air remote controlled air spray collar. DO NOT use a citronella collar, buy the additional unscented air canister if the collar comes with the citronella and make sure that you use the unscented air. (Citronella collars are actually very harsh and the smell - punisher lingers a long time so the dog continues to be corrected even after they stop the behavior). The vibration or spray collars are less likely to work than stimulation e-collars though, so you may end up spending more money by not purchasing an e-collar first. The Mini Educator has very low levels of stimulation, that can be tailored specifically to your dog. It also has vibration and beep tones that you can try using first, without having to buy additional tools. Next, set up a camera to spy on him. If you have two smart devices, like tablets or smartphones, you can Skype or Facetime them to one another with your pup’s end on mute, so that you can see and hear him but he will not hear you. Video baby monitors, video security monitors with portable ways to view the video, GoPros with the phone Live App, or any other camera that will record and transmit the video to something portable that you can watch outside live will work. Next, put the e-collar on him while he is outside of the crate, standing, and relaxed. Turn it to it's lowest level and push the stimulation button twice. See if he responds to the collar at all. Look for subtle signs such as turning his head, moving his ears, biting his fur, moving away from where he was, or changing his expression. If he does not respond at all, then go up one level on the collar and when he is standing and relaxed, push the stimulation button again twice. Look for a reaction again. Repeat going up one level at a time and then testing his reaction at that level until he indicates a little bit that he can feel the collar. Here is a video showing how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM A modern, high quality collar will have so many levels that each level should be really subtle and he will likely respond to a low level stimulation. It's uncomfortable but not the harsh shock many people associate with such collars if done right. Once you have found the right stimulation level for him and have it correctly fitted on him, have him wear the collar around with it turned off or not being stimulated for several hours or days if you can (take it off at night to sleep though). Next, set up your camera to spy on him while he is in the crate. Put him into the crate while he is wearing the collar and leave. Spy on him from outside. Leave however you normally would. As soon as you hear him barking or see him start to try to escape or destroy the crate from the camera, push the stimulation button once. Every time he barks or tries to get out of the crate, stimulate him again. If he does not decrease his barking or escape attempts at least a little bit after being stimulated seven times in a row, then increase the stimulation level by one level. He may not feel the stimulation while excited so might need it just slightly higher. Do not go higher than three more levels on the mini-educator or two more levels on another collar with less levels right now though because he has not learned what he is supposed to be doing yet. For example, if his level is 13 out of 100 levels on the Mini Educator, don't go past level 16 right now. The level you end up using on him on the mini educator collar will probably be low to medium, within the first forty levels of the one-hundred to one-hundred-and-twenty-five levels, depending on the model you purchase. If it is not, then have a professional evaluate whether you have the correct "working level" for him. If he continues to ignore the collar, then go up one more stimulation level and if that does not work, make sure that the collar is turned on, fitted correctly, and working. After five minutes to ten minutes, as soon as your dog stays quiet and is not trying to escape for five seconds straight, go back inside to the dog, sprinkle several treats into the crate without saying anything, then leave again. Practice correcting him from outside when he barks or tries to escape, going back inside and sprinkling treats when he stays quiet, for up to 30 minutes at first. After 30 minutes -1 hour of practicing this, when he is quiet, go back inside and sprinkle more treats. This time stay inside. Do not speak to him or pay attention to him for ten minutes while you walk around and get stuff done inside. When he is being calm, then you can let him out of the crate. When you let him out, do it the way Jeff does is in this video below. Opening and closing the door until your dog is not rushing out. You want him to be calm when he comes out of the crate and to stay calm when you get home. That is why you need to ignore him when you get home right away. Also, keep your good byes extremely boring and calm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Put a food stuffed Kong into the crate with him also. He may not want it right now, but once he is less anxious after training he will likely enjoy it and that will help him to enjoy the crate more, especially since he is so food motivated. First, he may need his anxious state of mind interrupted so that he is open to learning other ways to behave. Once it's interrupted, give him a food stuffed Kong in the crate for him to relieve his boredom instead of barking, since he will need something other than barking to do at that point. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 13, 2022

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Rex

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cockapoo

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1 Year

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Our dog is waking us up from 5.15 and will bark until someone gets up (6.30am is the time we get up) but has been earlier. He used to stay quiet until 6.30-7am and we ignore him but he will bark and has barked for 4 hours solid until we came down. I only go down and let him out when he’s quiet so I don’t know if this is from when he was a young puppy but usually we went down to take him out to the toilet. He is in a crate and we briefly let him out but decided to use it again. It isn’t his favourite place but is settling into it again. My boyfriend wants him in our room to stop barking but I don’t want him in there because once we do that we can never go back and I also want some separation from him, otherwise he will feel he always has to be with us. He doesn’t bark when we are out during the day but does bark if we are upstairs as we have a gate he isn’t allowed up. We just don’t want him to bark until we come down (we are in a semidetached house) and did think about using an alarm clock to train him but another trainer said that wasn’t good. We are both exhausted and having more arguments at 6am!!!!

June 8, 2022

Rex's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Maeve, Since you have already tried ignoring, I would correct the behavior. If pup is healthy, is being taken outside right before bed and isn't going to bed more than 10 hours that 7am wakeup you want pup to sleep until, the barking is probably for attention, and at that point I would correct. A dog can hold their bladder longer while asleep than awake, so once awake pup will have to go potty if it's been at least 8.5 hours since their potty trip. If that's the case, take pup potty on leash, but don't talk to pup hardly, no treats, no breakfast, and keep things very too the point. Give 15 minutes for pup to do their business (or less if they go quickly), then take pup straight back to the crate and crate until until you want to get up for the day -such as 7am. To correct the crying once you return pup to the crate, or when pup wakes before it's been 8.5 hours and, first work on teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate for 5 minutes, sprinkle some treats into the crate without opening it, then leave the room again. As he improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating him during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. If you are home during the day, have lots of 30 minute - 1 hour long sessions with breaks between to practice this, to help pup learn sooner. Whenever he cries in the crate, tell him "Quiet". If he gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if he stays quiet. If he continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at his side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. If pup doesn't cry in the crate when you are out of the room during the day, just practice the Quiet method and skip the surprise method practice, doing what I will go over below. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever he cries. When he cries at night or early morning, after you take pup potty and return them to the crate, or pup cries before 8.5 hours (so you know it's not a potty issue), tell him Quiet, and correct with the pet convincer if he doesn't become quiet and stay quiet, then leave immediately after, going back to bed (or pretending to at least). Don't give treats at night/morning though - only give treats during daytime practice. The goal is to make potty trips boring and for pup not to be motivated to stay awake or at least bark while awake anymore because of the corrections. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 8, 2022


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