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It's a running joke with your family that the house will never be robbed. This is because your Corgi dog is a pocket rocket when it comes to barking when people approach the door. For a while, when the dog was a puppy, you found it amusing that a fluff-ball would throw himself at the door and sound so fierce. A small part of you was even proud that such a little dog could make such a big noise.
However, times change and now the novelty has worn off. Rather than being a good house-dog he's become something of a nuisance in the noise department. From kids playing in the street to the mailman, it doesn't take much for the dog to erupt into the canine version of World War 3 on the Richter scale of barking. To make matters worse, the neighbors have started to grumble about the noise and you've no idea how to quiet the dog down... especially as shouting at him only seems to make matters worse.
At first sight, teaching a dog 'not' to do something, such as to stop barking, is tricky. After all, how do you give him the idea that the absence of a behavior is what's desired. However, this isn't quite as difficult as it sounds, because for a barking dog, silence is actually quite an active thing... he has to make a conscious decision not to make a noise, which is where you step in and teach him that this absence of barking is called "Quiet".
Many owners accidentally teach their dog to bark by giving them attention and telling the dog to be quiet. Ideally, avoid an ingrained barking habit from becoming established by ignoring any experimental woofs that the puppy attempts when visitors call. Also, it can be helpful to merely acknowledge the dog's alert, by saying "Thanks, I have this now." Since barking is a way of alerting the pack to possible danger, acknowledging that alert can be sufficient to settle the puppy down.
For the seasoned adult barker, you need persistence, patience, and consistency in order to re-educate your Corgi. You'll also need some or all of the following:
- A treat pouch so you always have rewards handy
- A mat for the dog to lie on
- Etched glass effect plastic to restrict the view from a window
- A collar, leash, and balls for energetic walks
The Bark on Command Method
Understand the idea
When a behavior or action is put on command, this enables you to take control. For example, having the dog bark when told to can reduce his natural inclination to bark at other times when he's not commanded to do so. But for the hardened barker who is addicted to the sound of his own voice, having the bark cue can enable you to teach the 'quiet' command, which allows you to silence a noisy Corgi.
Find a way to make the dog bark
The first step is to work out a way of making the dog bark when you want him to. Most people find that standing with their back to a door, and knocking on the door with a fist behind their back does the trick.
Praise the dog for barking
Encourage the corgi to bark by knocking (unseen) on the door. When he barks, praise him, saying "Good dog" and give him a treat. Repeat this, so that the dog readily barks when you knock on the door.
Label the action as "bark"
Now knock on the door and say "bark". When the dog responds, praise him and give a treat. Practice this. Now try saying "bark" but without tapping the door. If the dog obliges with a "Woof" then praise and treat him.
Now practice having the dog bark under different circumstances and in different places, until you have the behavior on cue. You may find that when the dog barks of his own accord, you can now say "Bark" and he'll woof, and then come looking for a treat, hence bringing a premature end to a volley of barking.
The Teach 'Quiet' Method
Understand the idea
If you can teach the dog to bark then you can teach him the opposite command, which is 'quiet'. This is done by teaching the dog that silence (such as when he's barked and is eating a treat) is called "quiet" and it can also earn him a reward.
Have the dog bark
Have the dog bark, as in the 'Bark on Command' method. Give the dog a reward for barking, and while he is eating the treat, say "Quiet".
You are now going to alternate the dog barking on cue, with periods of quiet (when he eats a treat). To strengthen the idea that quiet is an absence of barking, gently hold his muzzle shut after he's finished the treat and say "Quiet" again, in a firm voice. Then give another treat to reward this.
Alternate 'bark' and 'quiet'
Practice having the dog bark on cue, and then be quiet. Start to stretch out the time between holding his muzzle and giving him the reward, during which time he is expected to make no noise. When he is quiet for a period of time, make a big fuss of him.
Use the "quiet" cue to interrupt barking
Once the dog has learned the difference between 'bark' and 'quiet', you can try interrupting his bark in a full-blown 'bark at the mailman' scenario. It may be helpful to acknowledge the dog is alerting you to a visitor's presence, by saying "Thank you, Bonzo, good catch. I have this now." Then command him "quiet" in a firm voice and reward him when he does good.
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Do: Avoid boredom
Corgis are active dogs that were bred to herd cattle and nip at their heels. This need for plenty of exercise and mental stimulation continues into the modern day breed. Be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise and a chance to work off excess energy that might otherwise be diverted into barking.
Don't: Shout at the dog
When your Corgi barks he is alerting you to a situation, such as a visitor at the door. Shouting at him to be quiet is counterproductive as he's likely to think you are also trying to bark but making a poor job of it. Shouting is likely to escalate the whole situation and unlikely to achieve anything helpful.
Do: Look for barking triggers
Does your dog bark at people in the street as they walk by the window? Corgis are naturally territorial dogs and if they perceive a threat to their patch they will bark to defend it. The answer may be as simple as placing etched-glass effect plastic film on the lower half of the window, in order to obscure the dog's view.
Don't: Leave the dog unattended in the yard
Don't leave the Corgi out in the yard as a means of exercising him. As mentioned above, Corgis are highly territorial and likely to patrol the boundaries of the yard on high alert for opportunities to bark and ward off intruders.
Do: Consider alternative strategies
There are many ways to teach a dog not to bark. Another good strategy is to keep the dog busy at times when he is likely to bark. Teaching the dog to go to a mat or rug when the doorbell rings is a useful way of channeling his desire to react, in a quieter and more appropriate way.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 12/28/2017, edited: 01/08/2021