It's cute when our puppies bark at hearing another dog on the television, yowl playfully at the cat, or yip at their own reflection in a mirror but it can be embarrassing and frustrating when they take this quirk outside the house while on leashed walks. It may make you feel like your neighbors are judging your puppy-parenting skills, and if you don't take the appropriate steps early in this stage, the cute yapping puppy will grow into a big barking dog.
As a puppy owner, it's likely you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Puppies, bundles of joy they may be, can be exhausting and require a lot of attention and training. Not surprisingly, puppies come in a plethora of personality options, and much like Forrest Gump warned - you never know what you're going to get. Many are surprised at what makes their puppies react; there've been cases of dogs being afraid of or excited by trees, umbrellas, even a chair.
A phobia or excitement caused by bicyclists is actually a fairly common canine quirk, however, and there are many different solutions to help your puppy overcome it.
Dogs barking aggressively are showing they don't want something or someone to come any closer. This looks like a dog on high-alert, tail high in the air and stiff, an at-attention stare, maybe even some growling or hair raised on the back of their necks. If your puppy is reacting this way to a bike, then they view the object as a threat and are warning it to leave or back off.
Dogs barking out of excitement will have a wagging or loosely hanging tail, a happy expression, with alert ears, or an open, relaxed mouth. If your dog is doing this to you, it's likely they want to play. If they're expressing this body language towards bikes, it's likely they're motivated by its movement and want to chase it.
Dogs barking out of fear will have their tail lower to the ground and their ears are drawn back. Excessive licking or yawning may be present as well, as this is a sign of anxiety or stress. If your puppy is exhibiting these signs, then their discomfort with bikes comes from unfamiliarity or possibly even a bad experience with one (a bike falling on them, a wheel running over their paw or tail, etc..) and it's your job to reroute their former experience with bikes into something positive. Fear is definitely the motivator of barking if your puppy even barks at sedentary, non-personed bikes.
First off, choking or shocking collars aren't a humane way to cease barking. More than that, they've been proven to not be effective, actually weakening your dog's ability to obey and not react, causing further barking. These are especially unnecessary when dealing with a puppy, as they're in their early stages of learning and are just waiting to be properly molded by a motivated owner. You may be surprised at the simplicity of this training guide, but the needed items are few.Treats
Good training treats are small and easily eaten, allowing them to be consumed quickly and not be a distraction. They may also be low-calorie, as your puppy may be enjoying several handfuls of these a day. Specifically for this training guide, you may want these treats to be high-value (small pieces of cheese, chicken, or bacon). Something your pup doesn't typically get to enjoy will keep their focus on you. Make these coveted treats by only using them during training.Retractable Leash
Although not necessary, retractable leashes are great for smaller dogs (in this case, a puppy), because they are able to sustain what little weight is at its end. The ability to easily adjust the length of the leash will also come in handy during this training, because it allows your puppy to explore distance but also keeps you in control in case they get too close to a street or in the way of a bike in motion.Clicker (or mark behavior)
Clickers are great to have in your dog-training tool belt. They're used by professionals to "mark behavior". Marking behavior helps your dog learn what it is exactly they're being rewarded for. For example, every time you ask your puppy to sit, you click the clicker and then reward them when they do. Clickers are inexpensive and can be picked up at your local pet supply store. However, if you want to begin training today and are without a clicker, there are other ways to mark good behavior. Try saying "Yes!" every time your puppy obeys. Any word, as long as it's in an encouraging tone and consistently used, works as well as a clicker.Regular exercise
Keeping your puppy exercised, especially if it's a naturally more active breed, is an important factor whenever barking is concerned. In many cases where a puppy or dog is barking excessively, they're funneling excess energy they haven't been able to appropriately burn off during a long, fun game of fetch.
While your puppy practices a new training process, it's your responsibility to practice patience. It's likely your pet won't make instant progress, it's also possible for them to make strides forward and then have an off-day or off-week. Try to not become discouraged and know that it isn't anything you're doing wrong. Regardless of why your puppy is reacting (aggression, fear, excitement), you can choose to try any of the methods listed below or even a combination of all.