Barking, barking, barking! Stop the barking! Nuisance barking can be SO frustrating. It bothers you, it bothers your neighbors, it bothers everybody.
Nuisance barking is different than barking due to stress, like being left alone. In this post, I'm specifically addressing dogs who bark at other dogs and people when they come near their home.
Some dog breeds are more likely to be nuisance barkers due to their genetic heritage. Guarding breeds like mastiffs, German Shepherds, Anatolian Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, etc are more likely to bark because they honestly feel it's their job. Other breeds of dogs learn to bark to get their way. They key to stopping nuisance barking is to understand it from the dog's perspective.
Think about the different scenarios in which dogs typically bark. By example, most dogs bark at the mailman, or other people at the door. Every day, the mailman comes to deliver your mail. The dog doesn't know that's why this person in a strange uniform is at your door. He simply thinks, "Intruder! Sound the alarm!" He barks (and barks and barks) and the mailman leaves. The dog doesn't know that he was going to leave anyway. He thinks the mailman left his territory due to his impressive barking display. The dog feels a sense of satisfaction as he has protected his domain from this intruder.
This same principle applies to people walking past your yard. The neighbors are out for a stroll, and your dog runs the fence, barking up a storm. The neighbors continue on their walk. Your dog snorts and stamps his foot once last time, proud of his big accomplishment. He doesn't recognize the fact that those people were going to leave anyway. He loves that he did his job!
These scenarios are repeated, and of course, practice makes perfect. Dog barks, people leave. Except, what happens if they don't leave? Maybe your neighbors are barbecuing in the back yard, or playing with their kids. And of course, the dog is going nuts. They have been reinforced with the people leaving when they barked, and now they just won't go. So the dog ramps up the barking, wondering why these humans won't comply.
To correct this behavior there are several things you can do.
1. Don't let the behavior develop in the first place. I know what you're thinking... It's too late for that! But this is for those new puppy owners out there who recently acquired one of the 'barky' breeds. Address the problem immediately and teach your puppy to be quiet.
2. Eliminate your dog's access to their 'guarding post.' Most dogs have a favorite spot they like to perch on to look for potential threats. Close the front window curtains. Place opaque film over the front glass door. Don't let your dog run the fence line. In other words, don't let your dog rehearse the behavior. It only makes it worse.
3. Don't yell! Yelling at the dog to 'be quiet' only makes them think you are joining in the territorial patrol.
4. Teach the quiet command. Get a handful of your dog's favorite treats, and enlist the help of a friend, family member or neighbor. With your dog on a leash, have your helper pretend to be coming to the front door (or walk past the house/yard). Once your dog notices the helper and starts to look concerned, quietly say your dog's name and "Quiet." Praise when they turn towards you and give them several treats in a row. Repeat this scenario several times. Start small, meaning, don't have your helper charge up to the door and start banging and ringing the door bell. Instead, have them approach and stop at distance that the dog notices them, but doesn't fully freak out. It's important that we have an opportunity to reward the behavior we want, which is no barking. Repeat this process until the helper can get closer and closer and eventually knock on the door, ring the bell, or jog past the fence.
If you give this the honest college try and you are still having trouble, don't worry. We have other training tricks up our sleeve! Contact us. We're here to assist you! www.denverdogdynamics.com