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How to Stop Barking 101

How to Stop Barking 101

Barking is so natural and useful, and you’re not always home when your dog is barking—so asking your her to “Shush” on cue will take some practice. After all, sometimes you want her to alert you.

Remember, too, that some dogs bark out of anxiety, especially when you first leave home. Try a filled Kong upon departure to help, and leave on a TV or radio to mask some sounds and soothe. (If your dog has anxiety, we need to discuss more. There is a whole protocol to help.)

Dogs should announce someone on the property or at the door, but they don’t need to let you know when someone walks by on the sidewalk or when a leaf drops! Station an accomplice outside the front door or even just knock or ring the bell yourself, being careful that your dog does not go out the door, of course. As always, don’t make the exercise too difficult at first so you can set up your dog to succeed. 

Knock for the first few rounds and then try the doorbell instead if you have success. After two or three good woofs, say “Shush” (or “Stop” or “Thank you”) and then waggle a tasty food treat in front of your pup’s nose. She will stop barking as soon as she sniffs the treat because she can’t sniff and woof simultaneously. Praise your dog as she sniffs quietly and then give the treat. You’re not rewarding the barking but the quiet.

Repeat this routine a dozen or so times, and eventually your dog will learn to anticipate the likelihood of sniffables following your “Shush” request. You can also add a hand signal such as closing your fingers to your thumb in imitation of a closed mouth. Over repeated trials, progressively increase the length of required shush-time before offering a food reward—at first just two seconds, then three, five, eight, twelve, and twenty.

The more softly you speak, even whispering praise, the more your dog will be inclined to pay attention and listen (and therefore, not bark). Try not to compete in the Who Is Loudest Game!

You will want to leave a bag of treats out of dog reach but near the door until she gets good at this new game. When the UPS delivery happens, you need to grab treats pretty quickly to reinforce a real example! If your dog is especially barky, you will want to change the subject, too: get her away from the window, play some fetch, etc. And don’t forget that some dogs bark just because they are bored, too, so keep life Interesting. Woof!

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