Perfect Puppy Problem Solving – Chapter 1 – Excessive Barking
Chapter 1 – Excessive Barking
Some puppies like to talk more than others. You may not mind them barking for a bit when someone rings the doorbell or if someone comes into the yard, but too much barking can be a real problem. It’s also a very common cause of neighbor complaints.
Some breeds are more prone to barking than others. Shetland Sheepdogs, Miniature Schnauzers, Samoyeds, terriers, and hounds tend to be more talkative. If you have one of these puppies, remember, she was your choice. You may not have known about this issue before you picked her out, but it’s not her fault that her breed is chatty. This doesn’t mean that you have to put up with excessive barking, though. You may need to stock up on extra patience for a breed with this tendency, because her genes will be telling her to talk while your training will be encouraging her to be quiet.
Puppies bark for several reasons:
- They’re bored. They may have 100 toys available, but puppies can still be bored. It’s like having satellite or cable television— there’s hundreds of channels, but you still can find times when there’s “nothing to watch”.
- They’re protective. Some breeds are more likely to bark at people or animals approaching their “territory” than others.
- They’re afraid. Some puppies can be startled by sounds or sights, and they’re telling you that they’re afraid by barking.
- They’re announcing something. It could be a car going by, kids playing in the cul-de-sac, or a raindrop hitting a blade of grass. Some puppies feel a need to narrate things that they notice.
- They’re trying to tell you something. All barking is communication. You may never figure out why your dog is barking, but she is definitely trying to say something to you.
Addressing the Problem
To stop excessive barking, choose a cue for quiet behavior. It can be “Quiet,” “Hush,” “Shhhhh,” or whatever, as long as you and your family use the same cue every time for this specific action. Think of situations that are likely to get your puppy to bark. For example, does she bark when someone comes into the house? When you’re preparing her dinner? To teach her to be quiet, she needs to engage in barking.
- Hide a treat in your hand.
- Perform whatever action triggers your puppy’s barking.
- After about three barks, give your cue “Hush.” Don’t yell it. This is information, not discipline. She doesn’t know what the word means yet, so yelling won’t make it sink in faster.
- Hold the treat near your puppy’s nose so that she can smell it. She will stop barking to smell the treat. The second she stops barking, mark “Yes!” and give her the treat.
- Repeat a couple times, then take a break and repeat the exercise later in the day.
- After your puppy has successfully stopped barking several times in a row, it’s time to wean her off the treat in your hand. Repeat the exercise without holding the treat, but have it nearby. Just say “Hush” and wait. Don’t repeat “Hush! Hush! Hush!” Just patiently wait for the barking to stop.
- The second she stops barking, mark “Yes.” Pick up the treat and give it to her. You can gradually work up to not having the treat nearby.
Troubleshooting: What if your puppy doesn’t stop barking for the treat? Either the treat isn’t good enough to outweigh the fun of barking, or your stimulus was too exciting. For example, the sound of the doorbell can send puppies into a tizzy. So, if you’re using the doorbell sound as an introductory way to teach your puppy not to bark, then it may be too much at this point. Try another trigger, and work up to the doorbell.
Troubleshooting: What if your puppy stops to eat the treat, then goes right back to barking again? Show her another treat, say “Too bad!”, and turn and walk away. She’ll learn that she only gets one chance to earn a treat, and that she gets no attention for continuing barking.
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