General Question

damien's avatar

How can I stop my dog from barking so much?

Asked by damien (2394points) June 30th, 2008

My dog barks an awful lot at noises outside, people knocking on the door, etc. Can anyone suggest any techniques to get her to stop barking as much which don’t involve expensive training courses?

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27 Answers

jballou's avatar

One of the only techniques I’ve heard that works is teaching your dog association. When he barks, treat him a certain way (I read a book that suggested taking him outside, and leaving him outside alone for about 2 minutes) which will teach him to only bark when he wants you to treat him that way (i.e. when he has to go outside to go poops)

Doing that repeatedly will eventually teach him to associate barking with going outside, and nothing else.

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kevbo's avatar

My aunt and uncle have used these for a long time and it has cut down significantly on “recreational” barking.

… on their dogs, I mean.

thebeadholder's avatar

@kevbo…try again!

damien's avatar

jballou, do you think shutting her in another room for a few mins would have the same effect? Most of the time, it’s something outside she’s barking at so if I let her outside, she just barks even more.

kevbo, I assume you’re meaning one of the ones which makes a noise to startle the mutt? I’d rather something she doesn’t have to wear because we don’t make her wear a collar indoors.

kevbo's avatar

No, it give them a minor electric shock.

damien's avatar

Oh god! I don’t want to do that to her!

jballou's avatar

@damien- I honestly don’t know if shutting her in another room will have the same effect or not, the philosophy behind the training sounds similar, so maybe so. I wish I could remember the name of the book I was reading, cause I’d just give it to you. Maybe hitting up the bookstore and just browsing for a while might help. Good luck!

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richardhenry's avatar

Try interrupting the dog by making a very loud and sharp sound (you could shout “hey!” very quickly and loudly), and then tapping it sharply on the top of the nose (not the end of the snout, however). Repeat whenever it barks, and be consistent.

The nose and hearing of a dog are very sensitive, and it feels unpleasant for them. Be sure to reward good behaviour, and it will learn what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Although you might be scared that the dog will grow to fear or hate you, this simply isn’t true provided you are very consistent in what you disapprove. Love your dog every minute that it isn’t misbehaving, and you’ll do just fine.

Good luck.

damien's avatar

@richardhenry – that sounds like a good idea. I’ll give that a try. (maybe mix it with the idea of the bottle with coins in from the thread syz linked to)

marinelife's avatar

Damien. jballou’s idea is horrible. It is absolutely not true. It will not stop your dog from barking, and it could endanger the dog. kevbo’s is barbaric. richardhenry’s is only slightly less so.

One hopes you care for your dog, or you would not have one. Your dog barks because he senses people at the door, and he does not feel safe since you have not established firm pack leadership.

Begin to establish pack leadership by always going first through doors, into rooms, out into the backyard. Even if the dog is on a leash, you should go first through the door outside, and then the dog should follow. If the dog tries to enter a room ahead of you, correct him or her by giving a low growl-like sound. BarkBusters uses “Baahhhhh.” The dog will desist right away. As soon as he stops and lets you go first, praise him in a happy, high-pitched voice, “Good dog, Carl.” BTW, never use the dog’s name for a correction, only praise. You want him to associate his name with positive things.

If the dog runs to the door to bark, first establish a zone past which he is not allowed to come. (An imaginary line, if you will.) For this exercise, you need to supplement your voice with a correction device. That could be a ring of old keys, a short length of chain, or a sock or the bottle with coins (unbreakable, please). Get someone to come to the door. You move toward the door (stay between the door and the dog), but when the dog starts toward the door, use the Baaahhhh low growl sound. If the dog stops, praise immediately. If the dog continues toward the door, toss the ring of keys just in front of his feet. Repeat the correction sound as you toss the keys. Don’t hit him with the correction device! When he stops, praise him. Now that his attention is refocused on you, you can get him to sit where he is (behind the imaginary line) or return to his bed or jump on the couch, or whatever it is you want him to do when someone comes to the door. practice this several times. (You need a helpful friend or relative to come to the door.) When his stays where you want him, let the person in and allow the dog to greet them when you are ready by saying the dog’s release word or phrase. (I use “go ahead.”)

It should only take a very few repetitions with the keys or chain before you won’t need that and the Baaahhhh sound will be sufficient. Keep correcting until he doesn’t rush the door. If he then still barks, but stays where he is when someone comes to the door, correct for the bark the same way. Start with the sound. If he stops barking, praise him. If he doesn’t, toss the correction aid at his feet and repeat the Baahhhh in a firm low voice.

It will take some practice, but most dogs respond in one session. Then you will have to practice with the dog until you are firmly in command as pack leader, and the dog understands that you will keep him safe. After that, occasional practice is useful.

Remember that your dog wants to please you. He is just feeling leaderless and gets nervous since you do not take command.

Good luck.

Knotmyday's avatar

I believe the “shock” collar sends the wrong synaptic message to the dog, confusing it and possibly inciting a fight or flight reaction. Sonic (growl) collars work well, and the dog’s psyche intimately comprehends the message given; IF the message is consistent. Otherwise, the dog will learn to ignore it.
Please take your dog to a professional trainer.

CaptainDog's avatar

It amazes me how after having a lesson with a trainer, people feel qualified to give training advice (Marina)! Fine, tell what worked for you, but spare us the judgment of someone else’s suggestions unless it is your field of expertise. Especially when your “advice” doesn’t even address the issue. A bark collar is barbaric, but throwing keys at your dog is ok. Alrighty then.

As a professional dog trainer who utilizes primarily positive reinforcement to teach dogs, I am here to tell you that bark collars have saved dogs’ lives. If barking is the only issue someone is having with their dog, they are unlikely to go to a trainer. And if the barking continues, the dog will end up in the shelter, how bad are they now? The timing of the correction a bark collar gives is perfect, & dogs naturally understand the cause/effect. One problem is that they also understand when they are wearing them, & when they are not. Another issue is that typically the barking has become habit by the time a bark collar is tried. Barking is a very self-rewarding behavior; many dogs just find the act of barking (whether or not there is any “reason” to bark) very reinforcing, which makes it more difficult to extinguish.

One option (aside from a bark collar, which I would only recommend Tri-Tronics Bark Limiter), is to put the behavior on cue. Yes, sounds odd, but it gives you a way to communicate to your dog. So, first you teach your dog to bark on cue – should be easy to ‘create’ barking, so you give your cue (“speak”), then knock on the door, etc, to get the dog barking. Praise, you can offer a treat if you like, but for most barkers, just barking is rewarding enough. After the dog has barked enough to let a bit of steam off, say “QUIET”. Now, an easy way to correct for barking after you have asked for “quiet” is a squirt bottle. Set it on stream, & when you use it, hold it at your side, right next to your body, NOT out in front of you, at arm’s distance, like a gun. The stream of water will just startle your dog, and when that happens, they quit barking – “good dog!” Go back & forth between asking for barking and then Quiet, squirting any barks that happen after you say “quiet”.

Do this every day, ideally twice or 3 times a day; several minutes is enough. Once your dog understands to bark on command, you can ask for it at times that are appropriate-use it as a reward for other requested good behaviors. Recreational barkers LOVE that. Take a few minutes & invite your dog to a BARKFEST! Just be sure to always ask for “Quiet” when you’re finished.

Then you can practice with “real” stimuli, like the door. Have a friend be the door knocker or doorbell ringer, and ask your dog to “speak” a few times; then ask for “Quiet”. This is a way to let them know they are allowed to announce they’ve alerted to something, but that once you ask for “quiet”, you’ve got it handled, & they need to pipe down. Now your dog understands what you mean when you say “Quiet!” because you’ve given them the comparison.

Hope that helps – good luck. Oh, one final thought: dogs do not want to please us, they want to please themselves, just like every other animal. That doesn’t mean they don’t want your approval-pack harmony is always a good thing in a dog’s eyes. But the notion that your praise is/should be enough for all dogs is ridiculous. Yes, I’ve met some who would work all day for a “good dog”. But they are the exception. Use what your dogs love as rewards for doing what you ask/want. That’s what we call “life rewards”, and nothing will get a dog in the habit of good behavior faster than that.

marinelife's avatar

@CaptainDog Welcome to the collective. We usually don’t start out by attacking others (especially when we have no information to base the attack on), but whatever.

richardhenry's avatar

@CaptainDog: “throwing keys at your dog”?! Did you even read what she said? What a silly response.

Knotmyday's avatar

Read all about the tri-tronics device.
I find it illuminating that the patent office places the device in the same classification as stock (cattle) prods, electric fences, and shark prods.
Another point which I found very interesting is that shark prods have considerably lower effective voltage than the dog training collar.
I guess sharks are that much more sensitive than dogs.
I have been shocked by both livestock prods and dog training collars. They both hurt, and there is always the risk of visible spark (corona) burning the animal if moisture is present.

marinelife's avatar

I stand by barbaric. It seems I am joined by many others as this article indicates.

“The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the UK’s largest professional pet dog training body, is joining the fight to have the use of electric shock collars banned under the new Animal Welfare Bill.

The APDT has a very strict code of conduct for its members, ensuring that dogs are trained only in a positive and humane way. Electric shock collars, in the APDT’s view, are totally at odds with this code, training dogs using pain and fear.”

CaptainDog's avatar

Marina: I apologize if my reply came across as an attack, I was simply stating my opinion. The information I based these comments on were from your reply. If you ARE an experienced dog trainer, I apologize. Either way, I do apologize for coming across negatively, but still feel my comments were no more hostile than “jballou’s idea is horrible. It is absolutely not true. It will not stop your dog from barking, and it could endanger the dog. kevbo’s is barbaric. richardhenry’s is only slightly less so.” But whatever.

richardhenry: yes, I did read what she said: “For this exercise, you need to supplement your voice with a correction device. That could be a ring of old keys, a short length of chain, or a sock or the bottle with coins (unbreakable, please). Get someone to come to the door. You move toward the door (stay between the door and the dog), but when the dog starts toward the door, use the Baaahhhh low growl sound. If the dog stops, praise immediately. If the dog continues toward the door, toss the ring of keys just in front of his feet.” I realize she did not recommend hitting the dog with the keys, I just find it baffling that one correction is ok and another is not. Oh, I realize some people think any electronic device is cruel. That is an opinion born out of fear, not having educated oneself. Used correctly, most people can’t even tell when an e-collar or bark collar is activated. It simply interrupts the barking, just like the toss of keys or a penny can. A correction is a correction, and there are dogs out there that couldn’t care less if you toss a noisy item at them – sporting dogs in particular.

Knotmyday: if you are going to educate yourself, it might be worthwhile to seek information from all sides of an issue. They are electronic, of course that’s how they’re classified. Using a device such as this in water, you’d better believe the shark prods are much lower voltage!

Marina: and you have that right to stand by your opinion. I am fully aware of the stand the APDT (UK) has taken on the use of e-collars. I feel it is a shame that people can’t use the brain God gave them to be able to see the difference between using a tool correctly and appropriately and abusively. It’s oh so much easier to just try to legislate common sense, a feat that will never be accomplished. If you ever took the time to talk to or observe a good field trainer utilize an e-collar, you might be amazed. Pain and fear are not part of the picture, but I realize you refuse to believe that.

One might think from reading all this that an e-collar is my tool of choice; far from it. But I am willing to acknowledge when they can be used to good effect to keep a dog in it’s home rather than be relinquished at the shelter, and that a tool is just that.

Well, so much for being able to state my opinion as a trainer…and obviously this is not the place for open-minded discussion, so I will leave, never to bother you again with my silly responses. It would be curious to know what damien found helpful and successful.

damien's avatar

To be honest CaptainDog, I tuned out. I came on here asking for the collective’s advice, so when you chime in saying things like “It amazes me how after having a lesson with a trainer, people feel qualified to give training advice”, it just makes you sound self-righteous and arrogant.

Additionally, I don’t give a shit if an article or a dog trainer says an electric collar is humane or not. There’s no way in hell I’d put something like that on my pet. No way.

To sum up, CaptainDog, a lot of what you said is not only self-righteous but also condescending. That kind of behaviour is difficult not to argue with, which is what has happened. It’s not that it’s not an open discussion. There are ways to get your point across without the need to treat others like they know nothing and that their suggestions are invalid.

Knotmyday's avatar

One day, I will have educated myself. ‘Til then, I will attempt to stress the word “effective” more…effectively.

CaptainDog's avatar

Point taken, I sure do understand how knee-jerk reactions can work; I do apologize for spouting off like that. Probably a by-product of one too many dogs in for training whose people have “been told” to do this, that & the other thing, often from people at the dog park; many times really messing the dog up. Still, no excuse for automatically assuming that of others. I apologize to all.

Still, not sure how my comments met with such venom and : “Damien. jballou’s idea is horrible. It is absolutely not true. It will not stop your dog from barking, and it could endanger the dog. kevbo’s is barbaric. richardhenry’s is only slightly less so.” escaped any.

If my comments were condescending and even arrogant, I’m not sure what you’d call the above quote, but I sure don’t see it as positive. Not that it’s an excuse for my behavior, which I do take full responsibility for. But the tone of Marina’s reply was what got me fired up. If no one can see that, then I’m correct that this is not the place for me.

marinelife's avatar

@CaptainDog, As I said to you in a comment, it is, of course, your decision whether to stay or not, but it seems a shame to leave when just one interaction has not gone well. I hate to lose a voice from the collective. I am not sure why you feel you need to leave.

In both your posts, you have quoted the same part of my initial post so I will attempt to explain the difference in reaction. I can’t really speak for anyone else, but if I had to speculate, I would say the difference in the reaction to your comment and what I said at the beginning of my post was based on a couple of things.

One, I have been around awhile answering questions, and people know me and my intent and that I love animals very much.

Two, I impugned the techniques rather than the poster. Surely you don’t support leaving a dog outside or hitting it on the nose. I think we have hashed the other one to death.

But I get negative responses here. Here is one thread. Everyone does. I don’t like them, but I try to take them in, and then move on.

Again, I hope you’ll reconsider.

cub's avatar

tell your dog “thank you.” if you say thanks whenever your dog completes a task, saying thanks for barking lets her know she has completed her task yet again, and she is free to stop. this actually works for me and my two dogs, and i learned it from my mom and her dog (it’s amazing, she used to be afraid of dogs, and now she has training tips!)

Val123's avatar

I put my dog in the bathroom—and sometimes forget about her! It’s taking a long time, and a boatload of consistency, AND a little extra work on my part, but it’s working.

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