4:09 am   

Breaking the Barking Cycle

Does your dog bark every time the mail carrier arrives? And does he persist in barking even when you plead "no, no, stop, bad boy, no, stop..."?

Sometimes dogs continue their daily bursts of barking at the mail carrier because they think they're doing some useful work by protecting the home from this uniformed could-be intruder. So if you can consistently correct your dog when he gets ready to bark, you can teach him this is not an appreciated or acceptable activity.

* Figure out the key triggers of your dog's barking. Perhaps it's the mail carrier, children getting off the school bus, the neighbor coming out to mow his lawn, or daily joggers.

* If the dog's outside when these trigger events tend to occur, bring him inside before then. This way, he'll be less likely to bark when he is shielded from the opportunity. When he barks and the targets bypass or leave your property, this serves to reinforce the barking behavior. Your dog figures he did his job well. And let's face it...some dogs just like to hear themselves bark.

* If the dog's inside and barks at these trigger events, or is out for a walk, and starts focusing on a target for barking, give a sharp, immediate leash correction. Re-direct his attention to you. Try your hardest to catch and stop him before he emits his first bark at the target. Give the correction and command "NO BARK" or "QUIET." When he stops and attends to you, immediately praise him verbally. It also helps to carry tasty treats in your pocket to reinforce the praise.

* As you keep repeating this, he will soon learn that you don't want him to bark -- and that it is more pleasant for him if he resists temptation.

* The idea is to break the cycle of barking. To the dog, this cycle might well be perceived as, "Detect trigger person/event ... barkbarkbark ... feel good and useful and powerful ... the trigger person goes away ... my barking works great ... I'll do that again."

* Naturally, the sooner you start teaching "QUIET" or "NO BARK," the greater chance you'll have of averting or solving a barking problem.

* Some trainers recommend using a can filled with some pennies. However, other trainer/behaviorists believe this is training through intimidation vs. through gaining respect and understanding from the dog. Another approach that some swear involves using a barker breaker or shock collar. When the dog starts barking, the stand-alone barker breaker emits a piercing sound that makes humans' ears ache as well; the collar devices emit either a piercing tone or a light shock. Some people have claimed remarkable results from barker breakers/collars -- but others said their dogs were not deterred. Also, some fear that the collar models can affect the health of the dog because they emit electric currents. So you may wish to practice the previously described techniques listed above before considering shaker cans or bark-breaking devices.

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Last Updated: October 20, 2014 (LET) PawSupport