Perfect Puppy Problem Solving – Chapter 1 – Excessive Barking (Part 2)
Chapter 1 – Excessive Barking (Part 2)
Dealing with Different Triggers
Now that you’re on your way to teaching a quiet cue, here’s how to address some specific reasons why puppies tend to bark.
Barking Through Windows
Some puppies love to look out windows or doors and bark at everything they see. To stop this, use good management. Prevent your puppy from looking out the window and door. This may mean blocking some rooms off by shutting doors or putting up baby gates. If possible, you can simply close the curtains to block her view. If you allow your puppy to keep engaging in this behavior, it will become a strong habit.
Also, redirect your puppy’s attention with food-stuffed rubber toys or chew bones. Help to make the inside of your home more interesting to your puppy than what’s going on outside.
Barking While Outside
If your puppy is outside all day, she probably is bored. A bored puppy often will bark at neighbors or passersby. It doesn’t matter how many toys she has; if she’s had them for a while, they will grow familiar to her. Rotate her toys every week so that they will seem new. Also, increase her exercise. Being alone in a fenced-in yard is usually not enough exercise for a puppy. She will likely run around for a bit, then lie down, and wait for something interesting to happen.
Invite your neighbors over for your puppy to meet. Give them treats to give your puppy. (However, don’t force her if she is afraid of them and doesn’t want to go near them.) If she’s familiar with them, she will be less likely to bark in alarm when they come outside.
If your puppy is barking through the fence at another dog, and the other dog is barking back, it’s best to separate them. You may think that she’s being friendly, but she could be developing a behavior called “fence fighting.” She could be challenging (or answering a challenge) from across the fence. This isn’t good play behavior. It’s preferable to teach your puppy how to play with other dogs without barking. Set up puppy play dates with other safe, well-behaved dogs in your area.
Also, consider bringing your puppy inside. If you crate train her, she can’t be allowed to destroy your home while you’re away at work. She’ll also be safer indoors. Many puppies have been stolen from backyards, and they also can learn how to dig out or jump fences out of boredom. You can help to prevent all these behaviors by keeping your puppy indoors while you’re away from home.
Barking at People or Other Dogs
If your puppy barks or growls at other people or dogs when you’re out for a walk, she may be trying to tell you that she’s afraid of them. You may notice that her ears are down, her tail tucked, and that she is trying to hide behind you. Some puppies, especially those who don’t usually get to see or play with other puppies or people outside your family, may get overly excited when they see people or other dogs. They may bark, growl, and lunge on the leash toward them.
If your puppy does this, contact a professional, reward-based dog trainer to assist you. It also may be a good idea to put your puppy in kindergarten or a manners class to get her more socialized. Depending on the severity of the behavior, it may be better to start with private lessons. Never force a puppy to confront something she fears, because this can make the fear much worse. And if your puppy is acting aggressively, don’t let her go up to the other dog to “let her see that everything’s okay.” The other dog may not appreciate your puppy’s behavior and may react accordingly.
Barking to Get Something
You may have accidentally taught your puppy that, if she barks, she gets something. For example, she barks at you constantly while you’re preparing her dinner. When you give her the food bowl, she gets quiet to eat. You’ve just rewarded her barking. Here’s another example: She drops a toy in your lap and barks at you to throw it. If you throw it, you’ve paid her for barking. You have to change your habits before you can change your puppy’s habits. First, stop giving any kind of attention or reward for barking.
The next time that your puppy barks to get something, give your quiet cue and freeze. Do absolutely nothing. She will become confused and may start barking more. Still freeze. Don’t repeat the quiet cue over and over, don’t lecture her, don’t look her in the eyes (that’s attention), and don’t say anything. She will eventually stop. The second she does, mark “Yes” and continue what you were originally doing. She’ll bark again. Repeat. If you are very clear— you move when she’s quiet and not when she’s barking—she’ll learn that being quiet gets her closer to what she wants.
For example, let’s say that she’s brought you a ball to fetch, and she starts to bark. Tell her “Hush” (or whatever cue you’ve chosen) and freeze. The second she stops, mark “Yes!” and start to reach for the ball. She’ll likely bark. Tell her “Hush” and freeze again. Only move toward throwing the ball for her when she’s quiet. She really wants you to throw that ball. So, if you’re clear in your communication, she will learn that her talking gets no action.
Barking in a Crate
Some puppies bark or whine when they’re in their crates. This can be because they’re not used to them yet. Don’t yell at your puppy, because she can interpret that as attention. The best thing to do, although it can be the hardest thing to do, is to ignore it. If you let your puppy out of the crate when she is barking or crying, she will learn that all she has to do is bark or cry to get what she wants. And this is not a lesson that you want to teach her.
If you are following a proper crate program, your puppy is not being hurt in her crate. Be sure that you are making her crate a pleasant place by always giving her a treat for going in and by giving her some safe toys to enjoy as well. Don’t make the crate a “punishment only” zone. Also, give her plenty of potty breaks and lots of exercise outside her crate.
You may want to consider putting the crate in a different place. In general, puppies prefer to be near you. This may mean putting up with barking and crying for a couple of sleepless nights if she still continues that behavior. But you can do it! Ignore it now, and there will be relief in the long run. Don’t be tempted to lie down by her crate, let her out, or reassure her. If you do any of these things, you’re teaching her that being noisy works, and you could be setting back your housetraining program and other training as well. If your puppy is too young to be unsupervised at night, and you let her out of the crate too early because she’s barking, you are giving her the chance to potty inside the house. This is setting her up to fail. You may have a quiet night, but now you have housetraining accidents to deal with.
Instead, work on your crate training program more, and reward your puppy for quiet behavior in the crate. Stick with the program, and she will learn that the crate is a safe, cozy den.
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