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How to teach your dog to bark a little less

Cães & Cia Magazine, n. 345, February 2008.

In this article, I show the main tips I know to handle dogs that bark too much

It’s on the owners

As startling as it may be, owners that less like barking are the ones that faster teach their dogs to bark for just about everything. That’s because they give whatever the dog wants to make them stop barking. And the dog soon realizes that he just have to bark to make his owner get the ball from under the cupboard or make him open the door faster. In other words, to solve an immediate problem, people end up training their dogs to bark more and more!

Frustrated attempts

Situation can get worse when owners, faced with barking, do not make the dogs will. He cannot understand what he wants and starts barking more and more and louder each time. When this is the case, the one with the greatest will wins. Useless to say that the dog wins most of the time… When this happens, he learns that he not just get what he wants by barking, but also that he shouldn’t give up easily and that louder and more intense barking can get better results on human beings!

That’s why you must follow the tips above not to fail once more, as each failure makes your dog bark each time he wants something.

Exercise and activities

Idler dogs end up developing many behavioral problems, like barking in excess. Try to exercise the dog daily with games, handling and training.

Aerobic games are the most recommended, for they are physically and mentally relaxing, in addition to alter some brain neurotransmitters, just like anti-depressants.

Dog training can be made part of a dog’s daily activities. Always use some command that he knows before giving something he wants, like an appetizer, caring or a toy. Daily walks are excellent – they exercise the dog, give visual, auditory and olfactive stimulation besides your company, which is important for him.

Give communication a chance

A dog that only knows how to ask by barking gets anxious and distressed when prevented of using this way of communication. For that, try to make your dog use other ways of showing his will. For so, try to give him what he wants when he uses other ways of asking for things he wants then barking, which you didn’t pay much attention before. As when he puts a pawn on your lap asking for caring or when he fixes his eyes in the doorknob so someone will open the door. New communicative behaviors can be taught, as bringing the leash to show he wants to take a walk, or “saying hi” to get an appetizer.

Reprimand mistakes

It is essential that the dog does not get what he wants when barking. His will must never be satisfied when doing something you consider wrong. A good help to control barking is to link it to something unpleasant, as a bitter taste in the mouth or a fright.

So the unpleasant stimulus is effective, the dog must feel the need to avoid it, and it must be done in the very same moment the dog’s wrong behavior takes place. Each dog is especially sensitive to something. Because of it, it may be good to have the help of a dog trainer or a behavioral specialist to find the right tool for the job and when to use it. In general, we usually shake a tin full of coins to make noise or spray water in the dog’s nose to fright him or make him uncomfortable.

Attention: if you have more than one dog, be careful not to fright the other dogs with the reprimand, mainly if they are fearful, craven or shy. If that is the case, use a water spray – it can be directed at the barking dog without affecting the others.

Stimulate the dog not to bark

Try whenever you can to award the correct behavior. This includes not barking. Come up with situations in which the dog would usually bark, like ringing the bell, and award him with an appetizer if he does not bark. But, if he barked, reprimand him right away, with something unpleasant for him. As a result, many dogs, when hearing the bell, run to their owner and ask for an appetizer instead of barking at the door. Stimulating a new behavior instead of just reprimanding the unpleasant behavior controls the easily excitable dog much better.