With the exception of the Basenji which is knows as Africa’s Barkless Dog, all dogs bark. Even the Basenji makes a sounds, it just isn’t the traditional bark that you are familiar with. Barking dogs are a fact of life.
Why do dogs bark?
Dogs bark to communicate. Barking is sometimes a greeting to people and other dogs, a sound of joy while playing or anticipating something exciting, a way to get your attention (aka “demand barking”) and because they are feeling distressed.
What to do about a barking dog:
As I said in the first paragraph, dogs bark. You can’t – and shouldn’t – try to eliminate all barking from your dog’s life. You can, however, put limits on barking around when, where and how much it’s appropriate for your dog to bark.
Different types of barking are addressed differently.
I would allow play/joy barking to happen unless it becomes problematic in which case you can use the process below for teaching a quiet cue (NOTE: “cue” is what positive trainers say instead of “command” as it implies a request you make to your dog rather than an order. It’s an important distinction because a cue/request allows your dog to think where a command implies a robotic response).
Barking caused by separation or isolation distress/anxiety needs to be addressed differently because it is merely a symptom of a larger problem. You would address this type of barking by working on relieving your dog’s separation or isolation distress. You can read more about that in this article.
Attention seeking or “demand” barking should be ignored. This is when your dog barks at you because he wants a treat or to be played with. If you never give attention to demand barking, your dog will abandon the behavior. If the barking is so insistent that you can’t ignore it, you can use the quiet cue process for this type of barking as well. It depends on it’s severity and your ability to ignore it.
This post addresses teaching your dog a quiet cue to stop excessive or nuisance barking such as barking at passers-by and squirrels out your living room window or when guests arrive.
How to teach the quiet cue:
First, set up or wait for a situation in which your dog is doing the type of barking you want to stop.
Wait for your dog to stop barking (or encourage him to stop by showing him a treat). As soon as your dog stops barking and is focused on you, say “Quiet.” Let a few seconds of quiet go by (try counting to five in your mind) then give your dog the treat and praise him.
If your dog can’t be quiet for the five seconds, shorten the wait time to three seconds and work your way up to give. If waiting five seconds works the first time, add a couple of seconds each time you practice so that eventually your dog will stop barking for as long as you want.
When your dog “gets” that being quiet is what he is getting the treat for, you can try saying quiet before showing your dog the treat. Once he stops barking when he hears the “quiet” cue, reward him with the treat. If he doesn’t stop, he hasn’t figured out the meaning of the word quiet yet, so go back to the beginning. All dogs learn at their own pace so don’t worry about how long the process takes for your dog.
Once your dog is good at stopping barking when he hears you say “quiet,” you can phase out the treat by only giving it to him some of the time while continuing tot always praise your dog for being quiet on cue.
Things that can go wrong:
Sometimes a dog will learn the quiet cue, be quiet to get the treat, then go right back to barking out the window. If this happens, once your dog is quiet, also redirect him to something else – like a toy – so that he forgets about whatever he was barking at.
If your dog is deeply committed to barking out the window, blocking his view of the street will also help while you teach him to be quiet.
If you don’t have enough visitors to practice quiet with your dog around the door bell/knocking at the door (thank you pandemic) enlist a friend to come by and go in and out a bunch of times. By the end of 30-60 minutes of this, your dog will likely be great at the quiet cue.
Sometimes, clever dogs will figure out that they can run up to you, bark and then stop, to get a treat for being quiet. To eliminate this, you can only give your dog a treat for being quiet when you ask him to be quiet.
There you have it! It’s fairly easy to teach your pup to be quiet when asked. It just takes some time and patience (as does all dog training). Share questions in the comments along with your successes training your dog at home.