14 Aug 6 ways to reduce barking
Barking is a natural way that dogs communicate to us and each other, so punishing your dog for it would be like telling a baby off for their happy gibberish. Constant barking can be frustrating though, especially if you’re in an apartment and need to keep the noise down for neighbours. Let’s explore why your dog may be barking so much in the first place.
5 types of dog barks
Scolding your dog for barking doesn’t address underlying causes such as separation anxiety, stress or boredom. Here are five types of barks your dog may be using to communicate with you.
- Territorial barking: If your dog barks at everything that passes by your house, car or the path where they’re walking, it’s their way of saying ‘This is mine!’. Most dogs are territorial of the place where they live, but some dogs can even be territorial over you and want to protect you from dogs who get in your space.
- Alarm barking: This can happen anywhere in response to new noises and sights. Your dog may seem stiff or move forward as they bark.
- Attention-seeking barking: Your dog may bark when they want food, a treat, a walk or playtime.
- Greeting barking: Your dog uses this bark to say hello. You’ll see how different it is to territorial barking because your dog will seem relaxed and may also wag their tail.
- Frustrated barking: Dogs may bark excessively out of frustration, such as being confined in a room or separated from their people.
6 approaches to reduce barking
Depending on what type of barking you’re dealing with, here are some approaches to trial with your dog to reduce excessive barking. Remember that dog training takes patience and time, so you may not see significant progress straight away.
1. Redirect attention with treats or a toy
If your dog barks often when someone walks by outside, show them a treat or favourite toy and encourage them to follow you away from the window or door. Keep treats near the door and, if your dog barks at a courier or when a guest arrives at the door, get their attention with treats and reward them once they sit quietly.
This can also work well if your dog is prone to barking at other dogs when out on walks. Have a treat ready before another dog passes and reward them if your dog passes by calmly. Your dog will learn to look to you instead of the passing dog.
2. Create a quiet zone
If there’s landscaping or construction going on at a neighbour’s place, your dog may start territorial barking because there are so many strangers and loud noises nearby. Sometimes it’s best to remove the trigger by taking your dog away from the situation altogether. Settle your dog in another part of the house with a chew, blankets and their favourite toys. A white noise machine can also work wonders to mask outside noises and create a soothing space.
3. Put up sight barriers
You can help reduce territorial and greeting barking by blocking your dog’s view of anything outside that may grab their attention. Install privacy screening over an existing fence or plant hedges. Removable plastic film can make your windows opaque, or you could close the blinds and curtains at the front of the house at peak times of the day when people and dogs often walk by such as before and after work.
4. Address separation anxiety
Dogs who experience separation anxiety may bark excessively when you leave the house. It’s important to address this behaviour to ease your dog’s stress and to make sure it doesn’t bother the neighbours. Teach your dog to be calm when you leave by changing up your routine. Put on your shoes and pick up your keys, but then go to the kitchen and get a drink or snack. Mixing up the routine before you head out the door can help ease your dog’s reaction to you leaving.
5. Teach new commands
Training your dog to bark on command may help teach them not to bark at other times, especially when you also teach them to be quiet on cue. Use words such as ‘quiet’, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ to teach your dog to be calm when there is a barking trigger around, such as a doorbell or another dog.
6. Ignore barking
Reacting to barking can teach dogs that it’s a proven way to get your attention, so if your dog barks to get what they want it’s important to get them out of this practice.
Try turning around, looking away, and not reacting to send the message that you won’t respond until they’re quiet. Once your dog realises barking doesn’t get them what they want, they may stop. Your dog may genuinely need your attention, for example, to go outside to the toilet. Wait until your dog is quiet and then suggest ‘outside’ or ‘walk’. This will help your dog to connect getting what they want with quiet and calm behaviour.
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