Ask the Trainer: Help! My Dog Barks at Everything!

barkingDear Kevin,
I just read through the Dogington Post an article about ‘how to get your dog to stop barking.’ What if a person’s dog barks at them all the time? TJ barks when I come in the door, he barks when I’m just sitting there watching tv, he barks at me a lot. He will walk up to me when I’m at the computer and sit down and bark. It gets very annoying sometimes. Is there any way for him to stop?
- Betty G.

 

Hi Betty,

Barking can definitely be very annoying. The first thing I would do is make sure that all of TJ’s needs are met. Examples of needs are food, water, physical and mental exercise, going outside to eliminate, attention from a human etc. When all these needs are met we can then start to talk about how to modify this behavior. One thing you can do is work on a stop barking cue. I teach this by telling the dog, “quite” and then presenting a treat. With repetition of this upon hearing the word quiet the barking will stop. When you are training this ask for longer periods of quiet before giving the reward. In the long run the rewards will not be needed. If the barking is as extreme as I am imagining this may only work temporarily. I still wanted to list it as an option though.

Another system that you can go with is introducing a mat that he has to go to lie down on, and remain there. If done correctly this can be taught as a place of relaxation. What I like about this is it gives him a place to go to that he can do the right thing. There are multiple ways to teach this. For simplicity sake just lure him over to the mat with a treat and put him in a down. Start giving him lots of rewards on the mat. Ask him to stay there for a short period of time and then release him to get off. Keep repeating this resulting in having him stay there for longer periods of time. This will give him something constructive to do. (With all the repetition and reinforcement for being on the mat he may be naturally drawn to it.)

Now that he has something constructive to do we can talk about how to punish this behavior. When he starts barking at you what I recommend doing is looking at him and calmly saying, “no.” He will most likely continue barking. The very next thing you do is tell him, “too bad” and remove him from your presence. (He can be put in another room or a crate, etc.) The idea is that he isn’t around you. (Yes I said crate. If he doesn’t enjoy being in his crate you can avoid using it. I have used it for tons of dogs and it did not show any negative results in regards to how they felt about their crate.) Remove him for 2-3 minutes. If he is quiet allow him to come back and hang out with you. Since the mat has been introduced he has the option to go and lie on it. In the beginning he probably won’t and will most likely go right back to barking at you. Repeat the time out process I just mentioned. It may take 5-6 repetitions (or more) before he starts to catch on to what the word, “no” means. When he finally gets it and stops barking make sure you tell him he is doing the correct thing.

Doing what I mentioned above will help to break the old habit and start a new habit. Once again it is very important to make sure all the dog’s needs are met before jumping into punishment. Stay very consistent with this and be patient. You should start to see some results.

Side note: I DO NOT recommend using aversives like water bottles, a container of pennies, or a shock collar etc. to stop this. You will most likely only see results when said devices are present. Take them away and the barking will come back. There are also negative side effects involved when you use pain or fear to stop an unwanted behavior.

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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