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Training Tips for Teaching Your Dog Not to Speak

April 23, 2012

Dear Poncho,

My dog barks enthusiastically, very loudly, over and over. He does it at many different times, including the morning when I’m taking him outside, when I come home from being away, or when we arrive home together from a car ride. He barks in the car, out of the car, and everywhere between!

I don’t know how to stop him. I tell him “No,” but then he usually barks at least two to four more times!

Do you have any suggestions?
Tj’s owner

Dear inquisitive canine parent of TJ,

Your dog barks, you give him attention by saying “no”, he barks again. Hmm, sounds to me you’ve done a great job at teaching him to “speak” – nice work! I have a feeling that wasn’t your intention though.

TJ sounds like one happy enthusiastic pal. But I totally understand about it being annoying when another living being can’t seem to appreciate the sound of silence. Believe it or not, you’re barking up the right tree. I myself am one inquisitive canine who enjoys his own voice now and again, and I’d be happy to share some of the training tips my own mom uses with me.

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:

Know Your Animal!
Guess what? TJ is a dog! And guess what else? Dogs bark. Yep, that’s what we do. Well, at least most of us. Some more than others of course. And similar to humans talking for a variety of reasons, dogs will bark for a variety of reasons. For instance I’ll bark when:

  • Someones knocks at the front door
  • I’m excited
  • Patrolling the yard
  • I’m wanting attention
  • Annoying diesel trucks drive by (I’m a hybrid fan myself)

And the list goes on….Please remember that barking is a main form of communication for us canines. If you didn’t want to live with an animal that barks…well, then you might want to find a roommate of another species. But you’d probably end up with having to deal with other irritating habits and noises. Plus, I’m sure the love you have for TJ outweighs the annoying barking so we won’t discuss that option.

Whaddya Want?
It’s time to hunker down and figure out exactly what it is you want from TJ. Do you want him to bark only at certain times, such as when someone is at your front door? Do you want TJ to be quiet when he’s in the car, when you come home, and when you take him outside?

Once you have your list compiled, you’ll need to take the time to teach him when and where you want him to be silent. Start small and work your way up. Having realistic expectations will make the process easier on you both.

Reward. Reward. Reward.
Now it’s time to begin acknowledging TJ when he makes the choices you want him to make. For you this means any time he is quiet – especially during the more exciting times. Suppressing enthusiasm can be very difficult for us pooches, so using a reward that is more motivating than the reasons he wants to bark is key.

A few ideas that might work for you specifically are:

  • Practice coming and going in and out of the house and car, with TJ in tow, as well as on your own, rewarding with chin scratches, yummy treats and a “good boy” at those moments when he is quiet. Even if it’s just a brief second while he’s coming up for air is better than nothing. Take what you can get when you can get it.
  • Hang out with TJ in your car while it’s parked at your home. Read a book – or the latest Edhat edition. Then while TJ is just chillaxing, reward him for being quiet. This way he learns that being quiet in the car gets him the attention he wants. If he barks, send him inside and take off in the car on your own.
  • If and when TJ barks for attention – that doesn’t involve having to go outside to potty or a stranger is on the property – ignore it! Walk away if you have to.

Know Yourself:
If you’re having one of those days where you don’t feel like dealing with TJ and his being a chatty-Kathy in the car, then leave him at home. If you’re at your wits end and you don’t feel like training him, then redirect his energy to a different outlet. A scavenger hunt in the yard, play-date with another doggy friend, an outing at the local doggy daycare or date with a dog walker can help give him the attention he wants while expending energy, leaving him relaxed and wanting to rest.

Paws and Reflect
Keep in mind that any type of attention is still attention – even if it’s negative attention. So if you’ve been interacting with TJ whenever he barks, even saying something like “no” will increase the risk of his barking more often.

So instead of focusing in on the negative, concentrate on the behaviors that you want, teach TJ in a way he understands, and reward him heavily for making the better choice.

*****

Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. He and his mom work together running the family business that services other inquisitive canines. For additional dog training and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog. You can also follow Poncho on Twitter and head over to his Inquisitive Canine Facebook page, “like us” and upload pics of your own inquisitive canine. You can also ask us about dog behavior, just email us directly.


3 Responses to Training Tips for Teaching Your Dog Not to Speak

  1. Pingback: Training Tips for Using a Dog Crate

  2. Eleanor Minturn says:

    Need ideas on how to teach “bark ” & “quick ” on cue

  3. Eleanor Minturn says:

    I meant “bark” & “quiet “

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