You've just purchased a new pooch from the pound. He is adorable, the perfect size, is already crate-trained -- and he barks. A lot.
Learning how to stop dog barking will take time and patience. So before you try, make sure you have the energy and compassion to work with your pet. Here are some ways to solve the barking dilemma:
- First of all, why is your dog barking? Dogs bark for attention or out of frustration. If your pooch doesn't have enough food or water, or needs to go to the bathroom, he will whimper or bark. If he spots another animal on the other side of the fence, he may have a barking fit. Make sure he has the necessary food and water at his disposal, and avoid letting him out if you know a cat or another animal is lurking nearby. If he has food and water and is not barking at another object or animal, he is probably doing it for sheer attention -- your attention.
- Train him. Dogs, like children, make noise for attention. If you respond to every bark, whimper, or yelp, you are teaching your pet that making noise gets him what he wants. Have a crate, box, or separate room where you can put him when he has a barking fit. Ignore his noise (easier said than done, I know), and reward him for his silence at the end with a praise, pat, or treat. Repeating "quiet" or "silence" during barking and rewarding him when he ceases can also teach him better manners.
- Water in the face. Some trainers will not recommend any form of "threatening" action (i.e. water in the face), but it is an option to stop barking. If your dog is constantly barking, try squirting him in the face (gently) with some water. Do not spray it directly into his eyes, but rather in the general vicinity of his face. He will not like this and will probably stop. After a few rounds, he will begin to associate his bark with the spray of water. Do not spray water on him every time he barks -- only the excessive or the "I-don't-want-to-be-alone" barking.
- Give him a toy. If you dog barks when he is left alone, it is because he is used to the constant attention you give him when you are home. Practice giving him space when you are lounging around the house. Give him a bone or chew toy when you leave the house and do not make the goodbye a big deal. You pooch will learn, hopefully, to entertain himself in your absence.
- Run him! Dogs, like humans, need ample exercise or else they tend to get restless. Make sure you give your puppy plenty of exercise. After a long day playing in the park, he might be too doggone tired to yap. If you have a breed of dog that requires a lot of exercise, make sure you provide it! Smaller dogs need outdoor time, too, but in smaller doses (for the most part). Be careful using the exercise tactic with older dogs, as this might only increase the problem. Some older dogs whimper or bark due to irritation and pains. Bring your older dog to a vet if you sense he is slowing down and having an increased bark volume.
- Citronella dog collar. A dog bark collar is an easy remedy if you don't have much time for training. This device is the most humane measure on the market. When your dog barks, the collar sprays a little citronella toward his nose. This device usually does the trick and you will find your dog making less noise.
- Electric collar. This device shocks your dog when he barks. Although the shock is not lethal or particularly harmful, I do not recommend this method unless you've tried the other resources since the shock does give a small amount of pain. Sometimes these collars are needed for animals that will not respond to any other methods. It is up to you, as an owner, to decide. Most dogs will respond to this method if used.
- Surgery. If you are really intent on stopping your dog from barking, you can "debark" him through a surgical procedure. Or you can just buy a cat. Remember, some barking is normal, so do not be too hard on Fido. It is also a dog's way of signaling distress and danger, so it is important not to scare your pet into complete submission. Some breeds have more of a barking tendency than others, so be sure to do your research before buying your pet.
- Age matters. Remember, too, that age matters. Younger dogs bark for attention, while older pets sometimes bark due to a condition known informally as "doggy Alzheimer's disease," or formally as canine cognitive dysfunction. This condition causes problems similar to those in humans with Alzheimer's experience: memory loss, confusion, and disorientation. They tend to bark and get easily agitated for no reason. Do NOT attempt to train an older dog that barks with the water method or shock collar, as they may not be aware of what you are trying to accomplish and will not respond positively. In fact, they may act defensively if they feel threatened. There is some truth to the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
These solutions should help alleviate your and your dog's stress from barking. Good luck working with your pet.