Periodically I take my dog into a local pet store chain to work on obedience under distraction, recently I was stopped by a shopper and asked a question. The shopper asked me how she could teach her dog to stop barking.
I first asked her what she has been trying, she stated that the trainer in the pet store told her to fill a soda can full of rocks and shake it every time her dog barked. Although this is not a brand new concept it
makes me scratch my head every time I hear trainers using it. The only way I can imagine this working is the sound of the rattling can overpowered the sound of the dog barking so you no longer hear it.
Sometimes in dog training, we have to think outside the box and think of things from a dogs point of view. Here’s an example when working on the barking issue, if your dog is in the backyard barking at somebody walking by or another dog and you start yelling at him or her to stop barking, how is the dog supposed to just know what it is that he or she is doing. At the same time your dog is barking maybe they're wagging their tail or scratching at the fence, so to start yelling “hush” at your dog and expecting him or her to know exactly what they are doing is unreasonable. So what is the best way to teach your dog to stop barking? Teach them how to bark on command, that way when you teach them not to bark they have an understanding what it is you're asking.
Now you're probably asking, how do I teach my dog to bark? There are many ways to teach your dog how to bark, I personally use separation anxiety and timing. I start off by securing my dog on a leash to a stationary object after my dog is properly secured I move away from my dog. At first, the dog may be confused and try to pull away, once they figure that they are fixed to the stationary object normally they will start whining and hopefully barking. At first, if the dog only makes a whimper I still return quickly and reward with food, if the dog does not make any sound then I may entice the dog by calling its name or showing it food. Once the dog starts understanding that when it makes a noise I return and feed it, I start putting this on a command. So with the dog secured to a stationary object, I will slowly leave the dog at the same time I will give the “speak” command. At this point the dog has only learned to get me to return they have to bark, the command “speak” has no meaning, but once I start implementing the command into the process and I only return to the dog when I say speak and they bark the dog starts putting the pieces to the puzzle together. I do this correctly the dog learns that it’s the command “speak” and the action of them barking, that gets the reward. When all this is done over a period of time, you no longer have to use separation anxiety but merely just say the command for them to bark.
Thus far we have talked about how the dog thinks in regards to just yelling at them to be quiet and we learned how to teach them to bark on command. Now it’s time to teach them how to stop barking when we ask it. If you were successful in teaching your dog to bark on command then teaching them not to bark will be a breeze because we will use the exact same method as before. So let’s get started, first grab some dog treats, something that is soft that your dog really likes. Start off by giving your dog the “speak” command, when they bark then reward them. Do this several times to the point that your dog is constantly barking, at the point your dog is barking over and over for the treats give the “hush” command. Unless you're lucky your dog is going to keep barking even when you say “hush” because they will be anticipating the command “speak”. If you get lucky and your dog does stop barking quickly reward them with a couple treats then ask them to “speak” once again a couple times in a row before giving the “hush” command. Now if your dog doesn’t stop barking when you say “hush” be patient even ignoring their barking, at some point they will stop bark, the moment they do say “good hush” and reward. This is where you really have to be patient, it may take a little time before your dog stops barking but they will because they will soon realize that they are not receiving any reward for barking on the “hush” command. Once you and your dog is on the same level of when you say “speak” and they bark and when you say “hush” they stop barking, start mixing things up, maybe say “speak” 5 or 6 times then add a “hush”, this way your dog is really thinking about the command and you can see they are learning what you are asking of them.
Remember everything in dog training is about taking baby steps, once you and your dog have mastered the “speak” and “hush” command in your home or training environment start practicing it in other locations. Also, do not start expecting too much from your dog in the beginning, other words do not take them to an area that is going to be overstimulating to them where they normally would bark allot and expect them to “hush” on command, introduce these stimulates slowly based on your dog’s success level.
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