Some dogs bark a lot, some dogs hardly at all. How much your dog barks will be largely determined by genes and temperament, and it’s important to bear in mind that barking is a natural behavior for a dog. That said, there are things you can do to help combat excessive barking and keep it from getting out of control. By using treats and cuddles as positive reinforcements, you can train your pooch to quieten down when you ask her.
When your dog is barking inappropriately, take a treat and hold it in front of her to ensure that you’ve got her full attention. The sight of the treat should stop her barking, so as you hold it, say ‘shh’ or ‘quiet’ (choose whichever you prefer but stick to the same word). As she stops barking – and only when she stops – give her the treat. Repeat this regularly and she’ll soon learn what your command word means!
If your dog barks when strangers or particular people enter the house, you can teach her not to see these people as a threat. Pop your pooch on her training lead as soon as the person enters the house and keep them in the room with them for a few minutes, but no more than five. The individual should go about their business without interacting with, or even looking at, your dog. Meanwhile, do some training with your dog. Simple actions, such as ‘sit’ or ‘lie down’ should be enough to distract your dog. Reward her with treats, but only if you have her full attention – the treat must be in return for following your orders and not for barking at your guest. After a few minutes, lead your dog into another room, away from the guest, do a couple more training exercises, and leave her there to feel safe. Keep repeating this whenever your guest arrives – though you may not need to do so too many times!
It’s important to only use these techniques when your pooch is barking out of habit and not out of anxiety or with real aggression – you don’t want to suppress your dog’s emotions only for her to reveal them in other, potentially more harmful, ways. If you’re ever in doubt as to what’s causing your pooch to bark, or if aggression is involved, a trip to the vet or a qualified dog behaviorist could be in order.