The ability to bark is one of the many things that make our modern dogs unique.
Wolves and other wild canines rarely bark, but dogs developed this distinct call as they evolved alongside humans. Barking allows them to alert us to danger, get our attention, and communicate that they’re happy, excited, frustrated, or upset.
As wonderful as it is though, barking can get out of hand. You can teach your dog to stop barking using a “quiet” cue and help them understand when it is and when it is not appropriate to use their voice.
Why We Don’t Want To Mute Our Dogs
It’s acceptable, even desirable, for your dog to bark at times. Even the tiniest Chihuahua can offer some home protection by alerting you to visitors and possible home invaders.
The key is for your dog to stop barking once you have assessed that there is not a threat.
Outside of alert barking, vocalizations tend to be emotional. If your dog barks when you’re not home, for example, they may have separation anxiety, and you’ll need to address the underlying issue to help them learn to be at peace when left alone.
How To Teach The “Quiet” Cue
Every time your dog starts barking, consider it to be a training opportunity.
Most likely, your dog’s trigger sends them into a frenzy, whether they start barking up a storm when the mail comes, or they go nuts when they see a squirrel scamper across the yard. When your dog is in this heightened state of arousal, they are not ready to learn. They may not even hear you saying, “stop that” until you’re shouting at them.
Before you can train your dog to stop barking, you will need to change the way they perceive these triggers. One way is to throw a little party every time the trigger appears. Offer your dog some high value treats, toss around their favourite toys, or even scatter some food across the floor.
At first, your dog may not immediately stop barking and revert their attention to you. It can take time for them to calm down enough to even eat treats. But over time, your dog will begin to associate those triggers with party time, and they will more readily stop barking and turn to you.
You do not need to throw treat parties permanently, every time your dog sees a trigger. Once you see that shift, you can begin to teach a “stop barking” or “quiet” cue.
Next time your dog starts barking, ask them to “quiet” in a normal tone of voice and offer up some treats. Once you have your dog’s attention, you can prevent them from going back to barking by asking for an alternate behaviour, even if it’s just “look at me” cue to encourage your dog to make eye contact with you.
You can teach your dog to go to their bed or a mat where they will not be close to the window. This will also come in handy if your dog overreacts to knocks at the door. Your dog can learn to stay in a safe place while you look outside or answer the door.
If you have trouble getting your dog to stop barking, another approach is to acknowledge their concern and look out the window with them. Your dog will usually stop barking after you’ve had a look outside. Then you can calmly say, “all good, thank you”.
Managing Environment To Decrease Barking
If your dog spends all day at the window, barking at every person or animal that goes by, you can use stick-on window cling film to obscure their view. That way, they’ll still be able to detect anyone who actually comes close to your home, but they will not be able to see someone down the road.
Communication Alternatives To Barking
You can also teach your dog an alternate way to alert you of visitors. Service dogs for the deaf are trained to communicate with their owners when someone knocks at the door. Instead of barking, which their owner would of course not hear, the service dog may alert their owner by tapping them with their nose or paw.
Professional Help To Stop Barking For Good
Still, having trouble with excessive barking? A professional dog trainer can help you identify triggers that you may not have noticed, and can also help you communicate more effectively with your dog without raising your voice.
Healthy Houndz Dog Training uses science-based, force-free methods to help dog parents like you raise the perfect family dog. We work with local dog owners in Toronto and North York, and remote dog training clients around the world. Schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation call to get started.