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Force Free Methods for Reducing Unwanted or Nuisance Barking in Dogs

A barking dog

So you don’t want to use a barking collar or any other quick fix out there (great!), so how do you reduce unwanted barking using kind, force free methods? Yes it absolutely can be done with a little patience and consistency. Outlined below are steps to follow to achieve effective change using humane methods.

Consider your neighbours

First step is to write a note to all your neighbours. Describe how you are aware there is a problem and you are working on reducing it. Ask them to let you know how your dog is progressing. Be open and honest and I can assure you that this will help.

Nutritional, Mental and Physical Wellness

First, we make sure that your dog’s wellness is catered for. This includes nutritionally, mentally and physically. You want to make sure your dog is comfortable in their surroundings, they aren’t unwell or in pain for example.

You want to look at balancing physical and mental exercise for your dog. Are they getting enough exercise – or too much? Both can lead to issues, but surprisingly, when it comes to excessive barking, often high arousal levels or fatigue can play a big part. So reducing arousal levels can help as can making sure your dog is getting good quality sleep.

Focussing on using mental exercise for your dog (enrichment) can play a huge part in reducing some types of barking, so look into food toys and puzzles that suit your individual dog.

Environment

Now we want to look at the environment and all the arrangements that determine which behaviour your dog is most likely to perform. Does your dog always bark at people walking past the front fence? What about when they hear other dogs bark? Then let’s change that set up by redesigning the environment your dog is in.

This may mean, bringing your dog inside or creating a secure den area, using a visual barrier/block, or preventing access to a certain area of the yard. Managing the environment is crucial to reducing unwanted barking.

Training

Let’s now look at training and reinforcement of alternative behaviours. You can train your dog to play with toys, go to a mat or crate, lay down and much more. The more you reward behaviours you want, the more your dog will repeat them.

If you dog is worried about certain things in the environment that causes excessive barking such as people talking, garbage trucks or other dogs barking, you can use a process called desensitisation and counter conditioning to change your dog’s association and help them make better choices.

You can also teach your dog a ‘QUIET’ cue. So they know that being quiet, will attract a reward.

Training your dog is often more successful if you work with a qualified dog trainer. They can help you determine what the cause of barking is as well as finding appropriate training techniques to help you and your dog overcome the problem. To find a force free trainer in your part of Australia, see https://ppgaustralia.net.au/page-1862190

No To Barking Collars

We see barking collars as a “Quick Fix” and we are regularly dealing with the fallout from dogs wearing barking collars. Find out more about why we don’t recommend barking collars for barking dogs in a previous blog The Problems with Anti-Barking Collars.

References and Further Reading

IAABC Hierarchy of Procedures for Humane and Effective Practice
https://m.iaabc.org/about/lima/hierarchy/

Cattet, J (2015) Why Common Ways To Reduce Nuisance Barking Can Be Ineffective Or Worse! SMART Animal Training Systems http://blog.smartanimaltraining.com/2015/09/03/why-common-ways-to-reduce-nuisance-barking-can-be-ineffective-or-worse/

Hiby EF, Rooney NJ, Bradshaw JWS (2004), Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare, Bristol, UK

Horowitz, Alexandra Dr (2009) Inside of a Dog, What Dogs See, Smell and Know, Scribner, USA

Rugaas, Turid (2008) Barking, The Sound of a Language, Dogwise publishing, Washington

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