Quieting a barking dog is a quick and easy process. Really. It also doesn’t cost any money. But it’s not an obvious process - witness many dogs barking all time in parks, backyards on street corners, with their owners tugging at their leash and yelling at them and dogs completely ignoring their commands. My dog was driving me crazy until I learned how to stop his barking.
My dog barked and whined all time, and it was a breed (husky), that was known for making a lot of noise. The situation was especially bad when doorbell rang or he saw strangers. It was almost impossible to stop him once he started, and if there was another dog involved, forget it – my dog would yap his head off until dogs were separated and out of sight.
One weekend, though, my friend came over to visit. She worked at Chicago Zoo and knew animals better than anyone I had ever seen. In an hour she had my dog completely quiet, and she taught me how to do it, too. One hour to solve a problem that was driving me crazy for last three years!
The secret is not intuitive. First you teach dog to bark(!) I thought my friend was insane when she told me this. Obviously my dog knew how to bark because he barked and whined all time. But she explained that while my dog barked a lot, he couldn’t bark on command. First she taught him to bark on command, and then she taught him to be quiet on command. The whole process took less than an hour. My dog is pretty smart, so it may take your dog longer, but still, it’s an incredibly effective technique, and now, two years later, my dog still doesn’t give me trouble. What a great afternoon!
There are two elements at work here: positive reinforcement and intermittent reinforcement. Positive reinforcement teaches behavior, and intermittent reinforcement keeps behavior permanent. Negative reinforcement is just not a strong inducer of behavior. Negative reinforcement like shock collars or saying “No” does work to a certain extent, but studies have shown it to be about 10 times less effective than positive reinforcement. Everything she did was very clear and precise, which was much of reason she got her results so quickly. Your results may vary, but clearer and more precise you can make everything, better. First, go on a long walk with your dog to get him a lot of exercise. Your dog can’t learn when he’s all riled up.
Teaching your dog to bark: Then get a box of treats. Then look at your dog. When he barks, immediately praise him and give him a treat. Don’t let any time elapse between bark and treat. Pretty soon he’ll be barking a lot. Right now, behavior is coming before cue. Shape behavior first, and then add your cue.