It’s a fact of life: dogs bark. They bark to get attention, to communicate a message or to tell us they’re excited or scared. You’ll never stop your dog from barking altogether (you shouldn’t want to), but you can help him control it.
Bred to bark
Because wolves don’t bark, scientists theorize that barking to alert was one of first traits early humans reinforced when they domesticated dogs. Over the years, certain breeds intended to be watchdogs, were bred to bark more than others.
When your dog barks, he is communicating with you. If you listen carefully, you should be able to distinguish between the tones and volumes. Generally, the more excited the dog is, the faster he’ll bark, and the higher the tone of the bark. One single bark is his way of getting your attention or letting you know he’s curious or alert.
How much is too much? While everyone appreciates a dog who barks to tell us something is amiss, a pet who barks at the wind can make any homeowner – and his neighbors – irate.
If your dog barks primarily at "intruders," meaning anyone coming into, near or even passing by the house, Best Friends trainers recommend confining him to an area where his view of passersby is obstructed. This method is effective for both indoors and out.
If someone is expected at the house, keep the dog next to you and reassure him that all is well when your guest arrives. Keep in mind that your dog is only doing what comes naturally, and protecting you and your territory.
Teaching your dog "no bark"
Never hit or punish your dog for barking; he won’t understand why you are angry and will simply become fearful of you.
To control your dog’s barking, you need to teach him a "No Bark" command. When an appropriate situation arises (a sudden disruption in the household), allow your dog to bark two or three times, then tell him "No Bark" while waving a favorite treat in front of him. He’ll stop barking because he can’t smell or taste while he’s barking.
Praise the dog for stopping the bark, and then give the treat.
The next time, increase the waiting time for the reward, until the "No Bark" command is understood. It may take weeks of repetition, but practice and consistency should help keep the peace in your home.
Remember that, if your dog is a barker, you may have unknowingly reinforced the behavior. Does your dog get your attention when she barks?
Also, keep in mind that dogs who are left alone for long periods of time need to release pent-up energy, which may come out as excessive barking. Make it a point to spend time playing, walking and training your dog, especially if you’ll be out of the house for a while. The more time you spend with your pet, the more likely he is to understand what you expect from him – and the happier he’ll be.