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It’s a classic story. The mailman dares to venture up your front path and suddenly, your happy, calm Golden Retriever turns into a barking machine. She is desperate to alert her family to the dangerous intruder who is approaching her house. This behavior is normal, especially since Golden Retrievers are generally quiet, calm dogs. However, when a habit such as excessive barking goes unchecked, it can turn into an annoyance for both you and your visitors.
Training your Golden Retriever to stop barking is a tricky process. Barking is the way dogs communicate, so you can’t expect her to stop altogether. Training a dog to stop barking is like training a person to stop talking. But you can train her to bark only in acceptable moments and help minimize the disruption. The amount of time it takes to train your Golden Retriever depends on her personality as well as your consistency. It can take as little as a couple of weeks, if you are patient and consistent in your training.
With a behavior like barking, you don’t want to scold your dog. Instead, you want to reward her when she is quiet or stops barking quickly. Keep some training treats on hand and use them to reinforce the behaviors you want to encourage. There are a few methods of training your Golden Retriever to stop barking, which you can adapt to suit your dog's personality and your needs.
The Quiet Method
Choose a command word
One way to prevent your Golden Retriever from barking is to teach her the command word “quiet.” You can also use “stop," "enough," or a similar word. Whatever word you choose, be consistent with it. Whenever you want your dog to stop barking, you should use the same word.
Give your dog a barking opportunity
Create a situation which will make your Golden Retriever bark by ringing the doorbell or having a friend approach the house while she is inside.
Use your command word
Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose and say your chosen command word in a calm, low voice. When she stops barking and is quiet, use a marker word such as “good” or “yes” and give her the treat.
Make 'em wait
As your Golden Retriever begins to get the hang of the command, wait longer and longer after she stops barking to give her the treat. The goal is for her to associate the act of being quiet with getting a treat so she understands that 'quiet' is the desired behavior.
Proof the command
Like any command, you need to be patient and continue working with your dog to make sure she gets the hang of it. You can try adding in other distractions after the initial act that excites her. If she can stay quiet after an additional doorbell ring, you know the command is working.
The Barking Method
Decide when you want your Retriever to bark
While it may seem backwards, teaching your dog to bark on command can help stop her from barking at inappropriate times. By associating barking with a command, you can teach your Golden Retriever that she can’t bark whenever she wants. A good time to have your dog bark and add a command is as a way to ask for her dinner, but you can decide when you want to train.
Only reinforce the behavior you want
Choose a command word, such as “speak,” and only reward your dog with a treat and attention when she barks after being given a command. If your dog barks when you don’t want her to, turn your back or face away from her to show you don’t like the behavior.
Reward your Retriever when she doesn't bark
As your dog gets good at barking on command, start rewarding her at random moments when she is quiet. After a few times, your Retriever will wonder why she is receiving treats and start trying to repeat the right behavior.
Keep it up and be consistent
Pay close attention to your Golden Retriever’s behavior over the course of a few weeks. It is much harder to notice to a quiet dog than a barking one, so remember to closely observe your dog’s behavior to be sure you are rewarding her when she is quiet.
Wean her off the treats
Once your dog seems to have the hang of both sides of this method, barking and staying quiet, you want to start replacing treats with other forms of positive reinforcement. Other types of rewards include her regular kibble and loving pats from you.
The Good Dog Method
Set up a distraction you can control
When you first start working on this method, you want to create a situation where you can manage your dog’s behavior in a way that mimics her natural behaviors. For example, if your dog tends to bark when someone walks by the window, have a friend stand outside to cue her barking.
Get your Retriever's attention
When your dog starts barking, call her name in a calm voice to divert her attention from the window to you. As soon as she looks at you and stops barking, say “good dog” and give her a high value reward, like a tasty treat.
Practice and then practice some more
Continue practicing, both in a controlled setting and in random, real life moments. Whenever your dog starts barking, distract her by saying her name, say "good dog", and reward her. Remember only to reward the behavior you want to reinforce and don’t give her a treat unless she stops barking.
Say "good dog" before your Retriever barks
Your dog will begin to associate the phrase “good dog” with getting a treat. Keep an eye on your Retriever and when she sees something that would normally make her bark, say good dog without using her name. She should turn to you, expecting a treat, which will stop her from barking.
Phase out the treats
Over time, consistent rewards for quiet behavior will encourage your Golden Retriever to minimize her barking. Remember you can’t expect your dog to stop barking altogether. However, by rewarding her for quiet, she will start to think twice before barking and look to you for guidance.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 02/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021