Help! My Dog Barks at Everything? What Can I Do? | Pupford
July 19th, 2023
Filed under Training
Excessive barking can be frustrating and stressful in many different areas of everyday life. If your dog is barking every time someone comes to the front door it can make social situations at your home very tricky.
Abrupt and aggressive barking at the sound of every leaf blowing in the wind or squirrel zooming up a tree can be a strain.
It may seem impossible to teach your dog how to control their barking, especially if you have an older dog or if the barking problem is very extreme. Not to worry. With and consistency, it can be done.
Who knows? Training with your dog for barking issues could lead to a healthier and happier relationship in more ways than one. It is a journey of positive adjustments and techniques that can be fun to do for you and your pup alike.
First, let’s look at the root causes of barking…
BARKING IS A COMMUNICATION TOOL FOR DOGS
If you’re here reading this article, the question you may ask yourself far more often than you’d like is: Why is my dog barking so much?
The answer is actually straightforward. Dogs rely on barking as a primary communication tool. This means that barking is not inherently a bad thing. It is actually great that your dog is communicating, we just want to make sure they are not falling into bad communication habits. It’s also important that you do the same.
When they bark they are looking for a response of some kind and excessive barking is likely to work in generating a response out of you - negative or positive. Simply put, dogs bark to get what they want.
For example, if your dog gently nudged your leg with his or her nose in an unsuccessful attempt at your attention, they will learn that it's not the best form of communication when trying to get your attention.
They may resort to barking instead, and continue to do it if it works to get your attention.
If your dog gently nudges your leg and instead of ignoring or becoming annoyed at them you reward them with a treat or a stimulating activity every time they do, after time they will learn that gentle nudges earn them things that they love. This is a key principle of the approach.
THREE DIFFERENT WAYS TO GET YOUR DOG TO STOP BARKING
High-value (or other ) are pretty much an essential part of the process. As mentioned above, creating a consistent reward system for positive actions is a key principle when attempting to adjust dog barking behavior.
In general, it’s great to identify the main stimuli that are causing your dog to bark. Once you can identify what’s triggering them, you can set up a situation where you can divert them from it. You can steer them into a pattern of habits that is more rewarding and engaging. It takes consistency, but if you stick with it, the good habits should become second nature to you and your furry friend.
You don’t have to do this alone. It’s always great to reach out to a trainer who specializes in non-invasive and non-punishment techniques. They can help equip you with the skills to succeed with your dog.
If you are looking for some practical approaches to do on your own, here are a few ideas…
EXERCISE #1: DOORBELL PLACE
Goal: To get your dog to stop barking when the doorbell rings and to sit patiently in a designated place until released.
Note: “Marking” and “rewarding” are two training terms you’ll hear often. Marking can be done with a clicker or a consistent sound that signifies to the dog the exact moment they did something good. Rewarding is simply giving your dog a yummy treat/toy/praise when they have good behavior. It’s best to have a ranked value system of rewards in situations where you most need them.
- Start by marking and rewarding your dog when they stop barking near the door
- Have someone knock or ring the doorbell
- Wait until your dog stops barking
- The instant they stop, mark and reward
You can do this in five to ten-minute intervals at a time but be careful not to overstimulate your dog. Depending on your dog, you may need to work on this frequently for a few days. The more you do it, the quicker they will stop barking
EXERCISE #2: SMART x 50
Goal: Mark and reward 50 positive behaviors that you see from your dog in one day and repeat until you see progress.
- Get 50 low-calorie treats ready and place them in a bowl in a central location of your home
- Actively look for instances your dog does things you want them to do without asking
- Mark and reward each instance
- Repeat steps two and three 50 times a day
For dog parents who want to focus on barking specifically, look for instances of calm and quiet and mark and reward. Measure the 50 treats to be enough food for their entire day without feeding them traditional meals so they value it even more.
EXERCISE #3: DESENSITIZE THE STIMULUS
your dog are key! Set them up at a safe distance from the stimulus and reward them when they don’t react to it. The stimulus must be at a distance where they don’t bark if they see it and if they do bark, it is too close. Gradually get closer the more you do this exercise until they no longer are triggered by it.
- Ask a friend to control the stimulus whether it is their dog on leash passing by or holding up a fake doggy doll (this really works as a trigger)
- Make sure they are far enough so your dog won’t bark at the sight of them
- As they come into view, mark and reward your dog unless they begin to bark
- If they bark, divert and walk them in the other direction using high-value treats to get their attention
- Stop feeding the treats as soon as the trigger is out of sight
- Repeat the process multiple times.
Make sure the environment is safe and all dogs are on a leash. We don’t want dogs to bolt at the sight of their stimulus.
STOP DOG BARKING FREQUENCY: TIPS FOR DIFFERENT SCENARIOS
In addition to the training exercises above here are some pointers for other common scenarios where barking becomes a problem.
Avert the situation by avoiding other dogs and stimuli you know will make your dog uncomfortable. Try to get to a safe distance where you can practice desensitizing the stimulus. Always have high-value treats on hand when walking a dog with barking or aggression tendencies so you can lead them away from potential conflict.
Some dogs bark because they are in need of more engagement. They could just be bored. If they are barking directly at you it is possible that they want to play or train. Remember to treat them like you would anyone else you care about and try to give them as much healthy interaction as you can.
Going on walks or training for fifteen minutes can sometimes calm a dog down and help them stop barking at you for attention. Remember, yelling at your dog can inadvertently reward them. Even if you are yelling, the dog may receive it as rewarding because they successfully got your attention. Try to keep your engagement with your buddy as positive and joyful as you can.
WHEN LEFT ALONE
Some dogs get separation anxiety or respond to stimuli when they are left alone at your home. White noise machines and calming music can both drown out triggers and create a relaxing environment for your dog. Closing blinds can also help if your dog is barking at objects outside. Try stimulating their minds before you leave by going on a walk or training for fifteen minutes. This way you leave them enriched and ready to relax.
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