Why does my dog bark?
Often, dogs bark during exciting situations and exhibit attention seeking behaviour. If your dog barks manically at the production of their lead, during playtime or at the arrival of a family member or visitor, then it is likely that your dog has linked their barking to the exciting outcome. Your dog may even think their barking is what makes the walk, game or arrival happen! You can check out our “How dogs learn” post here
Dogs also bark when they see or hear something that they are unsure of or frightened by; take a moment to try and work out what he is directing his barking towards.
What to do
Stop for silence
As with all attention seeking behaviour, removal of that attention or outcome is what will stir a change. For example, if your dog barks during a specific activity e.g. whilst preparing your dog’s dinner. Progress towards their goal outcome (being fed) should stop. You should also refrain from given any attention until the barking stops. Once your is dog quiet, progress can continue. The principal of stopping an activity for calm and quiet applies for all excitement barking.
If your dog is barking because he is frightened then you will need to take time to teach your dog how to be confident in that situation. Taking advice from a qualified behaviourist or dog trainer will help you in these cases.
In some instances, it’s not possible or realistic to stop the exciting activity i.e. a visitor arriving at the house. In these cases, you should remove the dog. The best way to remove the dog without giving the attention they want is by using a house line. You can pick up the house line and remove your dog from the situation for a “time out”. If, once allowed back in, your dog immediately begins to bark again, you can briefly exclude them again. Of course, the house line should only be fitted when he is supervised.
In order for this to be effective, the consequence (i.e. stopping the activity or removal from the situation) must occur immediately the barking starts and resume as soon as they are quiet so your dog can make the association, If you continue to ignore your dog once they have stopped barking then they will not be able to make link to the consequence.
Stick it out
Be aware that when you first start this training, your dog may increase their barking. This is because they have learnt in the past that barking is what brings success. The worst mistake to make at this time is to respond as you will simply have taught your dog to bark harder and louder in future!
- Learn to not respond to your dog’s attention seeking barking
- Purchase a house line for quick, minimum attention removal from a situation
- Make sure that all family members are being consistent with this training
- Seek advice from a qualified behaviourist or dog trainer if your dog is frightened or anxious.
Is this article not for you? Check out our post on barking at people or other dogs