Many dogs bark to get attention—and it works for them. They bark and we either tell them to stop or, even worse, pet them or give them a biscuit—all without thinking about it, so long as the barking stops. That bark becomes successful as it gets the dog what he wants—attention. And when a behavior is successful, it become stronger and more frequent until you have a dog that barks at you, your family and your guests all the time.
Take some time to think about what you want your dog to do when he barks. Probably stop barking, stay quiet and possibly sit or go someplace else and settle down. And your answer may change depending on the situation. The problem for your dog is that he won’t figure any of that out by himself.
Start by thinking of what you want and when. When you stop to talk to a neighbor outside, you may want your dog to sit and wait until you’re done. When your family is making or eating dinner, you might want him lie down away from the table until you finish. And when watching TV together, you might want him to just relax with the family.
Next, make sure your dog has the skills to do what is asked.
- Does he have a rock-solid sit and can he hold it for the five minutes that you need while you and your neighbor talk?
- Does he have a mat or bed that he lies on in the kitchen or dining area? Will he lie down or relax on it for up to 30 minutes?
- And does he know what to do with himself while you watch TV?
If needed, teach him the skills that you want.
- Reward him when he sits and keep rewarding for a minute or two while you talk with your neighbor. Extend the time gradually as he gets better at the skill.
- Teach your dog to lie on a mat by tethering him to you or the family table and then rewarding him on his mat when he sits and then lies down and then when he stays there.
- And give him a Kong or bully stick to chew when you watch TV.
Make any of these a habit and your dog will replace his barking with a skill that you like and that earns him the attention that he wants.
Need help? Reach out to a Certified Professional Dog Trainer for training advice you can live with. You can find a directory at ccpdt.org.