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Meeka, the 16-week-old terrier puppy, gets so excited when she is playing with her owners that she barks excitedly. This behavior has started to increase to the point where it is disruptive and causing the neighbors on the other side of the wall of the duplex Meeka’s family lives in, to become quite annoyed. Meeka’s owners want to stop this barking behavior before it becomes established. Since Meeka is only a puppy now, it seems like a good time to nip this behavior in the bud!
It is easy for young dogs to get so excited when playing that they begin to vocalize in their excitement. To some degree this is natural, but if it becomes excessive it can become a problem, and contribute to excited barking at other times that can become difficult to control and stop. Fortunately, it is easier to change this behavior in a puppy than in an older dog that may have experienced owners getting excited and yelling or punishing an excited barking dog, making the behavior even worse. Being calm and consistent will be the key to changing this annoying habit. Remember, yelling at your barking dog only makes him think you are barking right along with him, so avoid this response to get your puppy to not bark when playing.
Puppies get excited, they have lots of energy, they love to play, and they are only just discovering what kind of reactions they get to different behaviors. A puppy may bark when excited. This is natural but can lead to unwanted, excessive, excited barking when your puppy is playing, or in other situations, which you will want to avoid. Excited barking is annoying, and can become out of control quickly. Excited emotional states can also lead to toy aggression when playing, which can then transfer to other types of overexcited, aggressive behaviors. You will want to intercede, to change your dog's emotional state and response to playing and toys, when your dog is young and it is easier to change his habit and behavior. Make sure you are not inadvertently escalating or reinforcing barking during playing. Extinguish barking by not rewarding it. You can also start directing barking by teaching your dog to 'speak' and then be quiet. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it actually teaches your puppy appropriate barking behavior that is directed and controlled. Remember, it is hard to bark when your dog's attention, and mouth, is engaged with something else. Puppies can easily be redirected, and this can be an effective tool for controlling barking when playing.
Be consistent when training your puppy not to bark when playing. Make sure everyone in the household is on board, so your puppy is not reinforced or allowed to continue with this annoying habit. It is confusing for a young dog to be directed to stop a behavior by one member of the family and encouraged to do it by another, and it is not fair to your puppy. Use treats to establish control of vocalizations and put barking on command. Never get excited and start yelling at your dog for excited barking, as this will only cause your puppy to bark more as his emotional state heightens. Instead, be calm and controlled to get calm and controlled responses.
The Bark on Command Method
Trigger your dog's barking using something other than play, such as having someone ring a doorbell.
When your puppy starts barking, say “speak,” and reward him with a treat. Repeat until you can command your puppy to speak without the trigger, and your puppy will bark.
Add 'quiet' command
Now introduce the command “quiet”. Ask your puppy to “speak”, then say “quiet”, and hold a treat out. Your puppy will stop barking to investigate the treat. Repeat "quiet" and offer the treat to your puppy.
Practice using “speak”, and “quiet”, and treating for compliance.
Apply to barking when playing
Initiate play with your puppy. When he starts to bark, say “quiet”. Once your puppy is quiet, reward him, and continue playing.
The Extinguish Barking Method
Ignore and stop play
Start playing with your puppy. When your dog barks, stop playing. Ignore your puppy, turn away and freeze, withhold any toys.
Attend when quiet
Keep ignoring your puppy as long as your puppy barks. When your puppy stops barking, resume playing.
When your dog starts barking again during play, say “no” and withdraw as before.
Be consistent, never reinforce barking by continuing play. Never yell at or punish your puppy for barking, just ignore. Require your dog to be quiet in order for play to continue.
Eventually your puppy will associate being quiet with play, and barking with play stopping. Reward quiet play with continued play, affection and attention.
The Break the Cycle Method
Teach your puppy to go fetch a rawhide bone, or a special toy with his mouth, and bring it to you for a treat.
Fetch when barking starts
Initiate play with your puppy, when he barks, stop and give the command to retrieve the designated item with his mouth.
Break the cycle
When your puppy goes and gets the item, he is distracted from barking during play, and needs to stop barking to carry the item to you for his treat. This breaks the cycle of getting over excited during play and barking by causing your young dog to focus on task.
Set up again
Treat your puppy for bringing you the item. Then return the item to its location so you can repeat the command if needed.
Repeat and practice
Resume play, if your puppy starts barking again, stop and give him the task of retrieving the item again. Continue until your puppy learns not to bark so play can continue.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 05/18/2018, edited: 01/08/2021