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There's nothing guaranteed to annoy the neighbors more than a constantly barking dog. And they're not alone – after all, you and your family have to deal with the constant sudden outbursts of noise, too. A dog that barks at the drop of the hat is a noisy nuisance. Whether it's yapping or deep, throaty woofs, a dog that doesn't know how to be quiet could get you in trouble with the landlord if you are a renter, or simply destroy the peace of your home.
When your pup begins a tulmultuous tirade of barking, the chances are you shout at the dog to be quiet. Unfortunately, this is the wrong thing to do. Your attention accidentally rewards the noise, and your furry companion may even interpret your shouts as an inept attempt at barking...with the result they get more excited and the noise level rises.
How to stop your dog from barking? Let's learn how to teach the sound of silence.
How do you teach a dog to 'not do' something, especially when giving them attention risks rewarding the undesirable action? Simple! You ignore the bad behavior and praise the good. OK, so it's not that simple, but the idea is to reward 'silence' rather than barking. To stop barking, teach the "Quiet" command. The aim is to have your best buddy understand the word "Quiet" and realize that they are rewarded when silent.
Be aware that barking can be triggered for a whole variety of reasons, from boredom to protecting territory. Your dog may feel they are not getting the attention they want or may like to bark excessively as a way of saying hello. As well as teaching the "Quiet" command, be sure to address underlying issues by providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation for your dog. A content dog is a happy one, leading to more rest and less need to jump at every sound. Remember, some breeds are more prone to barking than others as well.
How quickly your dog learns the command, depends on how quick they are to learn, how consistently you apply the rules, and how ingrained their barking habit is. Truly, this is a case of prevention is better than cure, and for puppies, it's great to follow the method of not rewarding barking so they don't develop a barking habit in the first instance.
You will need:
- Super scrumptious, utterly irresistible treats
It's also helpful to minimize the opportunities for your dog to bark while you are re-educating them. This can be as simple as blocking the view from a particular window, so they can't see people in the street, or putting your dog in a back room when visitors call at the front door.
Above all, be prepared to be patient. Barking is a rewarding activity in itself, so it's going to take a while to break the habit. And also know that training will go so much better if all family members know and apply the same rules.
The "Quiet" Command Method
Put barking on cue
Yes, that's right. Get your dog to bark. You might do this by knocking on a wall so they make an experimental 'Woof'.
Label this as "Bark"
At the same time they woof, say the command "Bark" and praise them with a pleasing voice.
Now label the silence as "Quiet"
You knocked on a wall or the floor and the dog barked, then looked at you like you're crazy. Take advantage of that puzzled silence and say "Quiet", then toss them a treat. This shows them the opposite of bark is quiet, and the action gets rewarded.
Practice, practice, practice!
Don't try to interrupt a full stream bark until your buddy has the hang of "Quiet" in a controlled situation. Keep practicing every day – ideally go for two to three sessions a day.
The Stop Rewarding Method
Analyze how you react when your pup barks
Do you give a treat in order to distract the dog from the door when visitors call? STOP! That treat says to your dog, "Well done for barking, here is your reward." Do you shout at your pup? STOP. In dog language, you're making a poor attempt at joining in.
Anticipate and avoid
Know what's likely to set your dog off and avoid those situations. For example, if they bark at the street from the living room window, then put a frosted adhesive covering over the lower glass to block their view or keep the curtains pulled when you are out.
If the dog barks, then either ignore them completely (hence removing your attention) or without speaking, put their leash on, lead them to another room and leave them alone. The message being that when they bark, they end up on their own.
Teach your companion a command which requires them to take an action other than barking. This could be fetching a ball (Clever, this one, as their mouth is now full) or to go and lie on their mat.
The Displacement Activity Method
Choose a spot
Start by training in a quiet room. Place a mat in a spot away from the window or door where the barking happens.
Introduce the command
Throw a treat onto the mat and tell your dog "Go to your mat". Praise them when they go to snaffle up the treat.
Have them stay on the mat by teaching the "Stay" command. Be consistent and patient.
Now add in a level of distraction, such as having them in a different room to the mat, then telling them to go there.
Once they are reliably carrying out this action, trigger a low level of barking and then command them to go to the mat. You can then reward their good behavior and diffuse the barking situation.
Written by James Barra
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 09/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021