Over the weekend at Dogs Unleashed in Driffield there was one behaviour that kept popping up that people wanted advice on and that was how to help reduce their dog's barking.
There were many triggers to what was causing barking:
Towards other dogs.
Towards people walking past the home.
Whilst in the car.
At the postman.
Just because they like the sound of their own voice!
Barking can be one of the most difficult behaviours to work with as firstly it is a natural instinctive behaviour for dogs to perform. It is also an adrenaline fuelled behaviour so when they do it, it makes the dog feel better which is then likely for them to keep repeating the behaviour as the dog gets their own reward out of it. This can then make training hard as it can quickly become a dog’s go to habit to perform!
It is important to look at why the behaviour is happening. There are many influences too why dogs bark. Are they anxious or excited? Does the behaviour work for them? As more often than not barking gets the dog exactly what they want!
It can also be incredibly hard to ignore, and the temptation is to tell them to be quiet, but this can also be reinforcing for the dog as they have got your attention out of the situation too, even if it is negative attention.
I find the key to helping dogs to reduce their barking is by giving them an alternative behaviour to perform that you can reward and reinforce as a good habit! Anything other than a bark I often tend to pick focus cues and give the dog a job to do instead of a woof falling out. Then building up a new habit for the dog to do.
Timing is key, and it is building up your training slowly so that they do not get to practice barking behaviour as much as possible as the more a dog performs a behaviour the better they get at it.
It is also a behaviour that can be taught as a trick and putting the bark on to cue this gives the opportunity to put a quiet cue in place so that when they do bark they understand what quiet means.
Whatever option you choose is best for your dog, be consistent! Consistency is key with any training that you do together.
Do you struggle with your dogs barking?