January 26, 2015
Dogs don’t bark to annoy people, though it may seem that way in our human being-centric world, especially if the barking is loud, frequent, and for all occasions. Inquisitive Canines bark for a variety of reasons. After all it’s how they communicate.
For example, dogs bark when:
- Their human comes home from work and they’re excited.
- They’re canvassing the backyard and sense something amiss.
- A friend rings the doorbell.
- A delivery truck is on the driveway.
- It’s a little past dinnertime.
- They want attention.
There are as many reasons dogs bark as there are dogs.
But, that doesn’t mean we have to listen to a canine’s incessant chatter. Just as humans can learn the art of gracious conversation, so can dogs.
First, let’s look at what most likely happens when a human wants a dog to stop barking. The two-legged animal shushes the barker, which gives attention to the behavior. This shushing, in fact, rewards the barking and encourages it. The barking continues, followed by more shushing, resulting in more barking, garnering more shushing … and the cycle continues.
What’s It to You?
Now, think about what you want from your dog’s barking. Do you want to be alerted when someone is at the front door? Do you prefer silent car rides? Make a list. Teaching him when and where to be silent will take some time, but every journey begins with a single paw step.
Be realistic. After all, dogs bark. It’s what they do.
Reward. Reward. Reward.
I can’t say this enough: Reward! Reward your dog when he makes the choices you want him to make, which, for you, means when he is quiet, particularly during a challenging and exciting time. The key is that the reward needs to be more motivating than the reason for barking. Think about what your dog would rather have – a tasty morsel from you or a sore throat from barking at a large brown truck passing in front of the living room window?
Here are a few practice drills:
- Rehearse going in and out of the front door with your dog, as well as on your own, and reward (there’s that word again!) him with chin scratches, yummy treats, and a “good boy!” when he is quiet. Even if he’s quiet just for a second, reward him. Let him know he made the right choice.
- Relax with your dog in your parked car in the driveway. Read a book. Do some deep breathing. Just be. Reward your dog when he’s quiet. This way he learns that being quiet in the car gets him the attention he wants. If he barks, bring him inside and take off in the car on your own.
- When your dog barks for attention – that doesn’t have to do with going outside to go potty or a stranger on your property – ignore it! Walk away if necessary.
To Thine Own Self Be True
If you’re having one of those days (and we all have ’em), and you just can’t deal with your dog talking so much in the car, then leave him at home. If you just can’t take one more syllable and really don’t feel like training him, then redirect his energy to a different outlet. How about a scavenger hunt in the yard? A play date with another doggy friend? An outing at the local doggy daycare? The right diversion can give him the attention he wants while expending energy, leaving him relaxed, wanting to rest, and less likely to want to your ear off.
Think About It
Any type of attention is attention – even if it’s negative attention. So, instead of rewarding unwanted behavior, by saying something like “no,” focus on the behavior you want and acknowledge it in a way your dog finds enjoyable. Teach your dog in a way he understands and reward him – chin scratches, yummy treats, and a “good boy!” – for making the better choice.
Did you check out the rockin’ Hazel, a very inquisitive canine and trained-force-free Pit bull? We met her via our good friends at www.yourpitbullandyou.com.
The Inquisitive Canine Doggie Blog is written by Joan Mayer, a certified professional dog trainer based in Santa Barbara, California. Joan is also a human-canine relationship coach and frequently consults with Poncho, her 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about human and canine behavior.
Joan and Poncho love making new friends. Post snapshots and videos of your favorite Inquisitive Canine on their Facebook page.