Common Dog Behavior Problems – The Positive Solutions
Why Dogs Do This: Dogs bark because they’re bored, because that’s the only response they know to an interesting sight/sound/whatever in their world, because they’ve been rewarded by a human for barking in the past.
How to Fix It: Remove anything that could be rewarding about barking for a dog. Then redirect the dog from his barking. BE MORE INTERESTING than whatever your dog is barking at. This may take some zany tactics at first (crazy baby talk, jumping around, running away from him, etc.), but do whatever you have to, EXCEPT for scaring him or offering him the reward he’ll get once you have grabbed his attention. As soon as the barking stops and/or the dog turns his attention to you (even a millisecond of silence or focus counts!), praise and then reward him with something great! Each time you repeat this exercise, your dog’s attention will become much easier to attain, because he knows that you’ll make it worth his while.
What Your Dog Can Do Instead: You can teach your dog to come to you whenever he begins to bark – eventually, he may start coming to you instead of barking, wouldn’t that be great? You can also teach him to sit and “watch me” anytime he notices something new, different, or otherwise interesting. If the dog is focusing on his owner, he won’t be focusing on the strange thing, and he won’t bark at it.
Training Tips: Interrupt your dog’s barking with an attention-getting as soon as you can – the longer the dog has been barking, the harder it will be to get him to stop. Watch very closely for that split-second pause in your dog’s barking/focus – your dog knows he stopped, and expects you to know, too. If you don’t reward that silence, he’ll be silent less often.
DON’T turn your Reward into a bribe by using it as a lure to call the dog away from his barking. That will only teach the dog to come when he sees food, rather than coming whenever you verbally ask for his attention.
DON’T interrupt his barking by scaring or startling him – this may work in the short run, but over time it will teach him that whatever he barks at, makes scary things happen – then he’ll become anxious, and will probably bark even more.
DON’T ignore barking, because barking is a self-rewarding activity for a dog. If a dog is barking because he’s bored, ignoring him will only let him know it’s a good thing he’s found such a fun activity in barking to keep himself occupied. If a dog is barking at a strange object, redirecting him to an appropriate behavior will build his confidence in the face of new and scary things, and he’ll bark less frequently overall.