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Training Dogs Not To Bark -
Using Positive Reinforcement!


barking dog in front of dog house decal


Training dogs not to bark excessively is a top priority if you want to save your sanity and maintain a good relationship with your dog. While dog barking is obviously quite normal, we all have times when we absolutely need peace and quiet - that goes for your neighbors too! When your dog is trained to stop barking on command, it will make both you and your neighbors happy, plus other dog owners you meet out on walks or at the dog park!

Neighbors who don't own dogs can get justifiably fed up with non-stop barking and some may even resort to not-so-nice tactics to stop the noise!

On the other hand, once you have your own dog trained to be quiet on cue, you may even be asked to pass this information along to neighbors who also have noisy dogs that they would like to hush.

Let's face it, no matter how much you love your dog, a barking bowser can get very annoying especially at those times when you're trying to read, having a conversation with someone, on the phone etc - well you get it! Of course you don't want a dog that never barks - sometimes barking is quite appropriate and protective. You just want to be in control of the "OFF" switch!




Is There A Reason For All That Extra Noise?

This article is aimed to help in situations where there is no over-riding reason why a dog barks to excess. Reasons such as insufficient exercise, boredom, being left alone too long, undiscoverd health issues, lack of attention or mental stimulation. These things may be at the root of the problem, or part of it, and should be ruled out before training dogs not to bark.

Training Dogs Not To Bark - So Where Do You Begin?

In Phase 1, the first thing your dog needs to understand is the difference between being quiet and barking. Even a noisy dog is still going to be quiet for a good portion of his day so it's hard to get him to recognize "quiet" as a command without knowing the opposite of this. But, when he barks or "speaks" that's a distinctly different behavior.

Now this may sound strange, but you must get him to recognize his barking behavior in order to get him to stop it. The clicker is an ideal reinforcer for this type of training. If you have not used a clicker before, now would be a good time to get one. It will not only serve for this purpose, but you will find it invaluable for other training exercises.

If your dog is unfamiliar with the clicker, you should spend some time introducing him to the sound and associating it with a reward. If you have a reasonably smart Rover, he will quickly put two and two together.

Training Dogs Not To Bark - Phase 2

clicker dog training book by Karen Pryor Okay, assuming your dog now recognizes the sound of the clicker and the reward that follows, he will be ready for Phase two where a 'behavior' is added to the pattern.

So the next time a barking fest is underway, get your clicker and rewards (treats) in hand and follow these steps.

Timing is important in this exercise. Otherwise it's really pretty simple. The click must occur immediately following the bark and along with the reward. What you are doing here is reinforcing the bark/click/reward association.

Now I know this may sound counter intuitive to some of you, but hang in there and please bear with me if you want to be in control of nuisance barking.

Once you have completed sufficient repetitions of the bark/click/treat sequence for your dog to get it, now it's time to incorporate a verbal command along with the click. Use a word you can easily remember and be comfortable with forever - such as "talk", "speak", or even "bark". This part of the training will establish the verbal command and give you control over the behavior. You can now have your dog bark on verbal cue!

Training Dogs Not To Bark - Phase 3

Well, it may be very impressive to have him bark on cue, but I'm more interested in how do I stop him barking, I hear you asking. And we'll answer that right now.

i-Click Dog Training Clicker i-Click Dog Training ClickerOnce again, the clicker is your friend.

In this case, you will be timing your clicks and rewards to the silence that occurs in between barking.

So begin with asking your dog to "talk" "speak" or "bark" and when he does give him his treat.

Now wait for a quiet spell between barks and time it with a click plus a new command word such as hush, shush, silent, quiet or whatever word you choose for this command. Don't forget to follow up with the click/treat!

This phase of the training is what you will most want to repeat and concentrate on - alternating between the bark and quiet commands and gradually focussing more on the quiet cue.

Within a short time, your dog will respond to either one on your commands. But the fascinating thing about dog training is that your dog will often drop annoying behaviors just because he is bonding with you, pleasing you and getting more attention!

Training Dogs Not To Bark - The Outside World

Phase 3:  Now your dog is trained around his home environment you can take him out for a test drive in new situations and surroundings for a more public test. No doubt this will add some level of distraction, so it is wise to ease into this and not expect perfection right away.

First test out the commands in low key situations where you are more likely to keep your dog's attention. When your dog achieves success in these situations, not only will the training be reinforced, he will also become a more confident dog.

It is pretty well recognized that confident well-trained dogs are much better behaved overall.




Training Dogs Not To Bark - Conclusion

Even though you have used the clicker for these training sessions, you will ultimately be able to achieve the desired response through verbal cues alone.

The clicker method of training has proven to be very effective in teaching dogs many other desired behaviors and one which you're sure to want to use in your pet's next lessons.

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