By J T Kesler
You’re probably reading this article to find tips on how to stop dog barking, so it might sound odd when I say that first you should teach your dog to bark – on command that is.
To start this exercise your dog should be calm and relaxed.
Take your dog to your front door or where he usually hears someone knocking on the door or ringing the bell.
At this point he should not be expecting anything.
Now say “woof” as a command, and then straight away you knock on the door – just like a visitor would.
Now, your dog will of course see that it’s you that’s knocking, but he is pre-programmed to respond to that ‘knock knock knock’ sound. He will most likely start barking even though he knows it’s you.
You can even join him if you like and bark with him a few times (don’t worry about feeling silly, you are training your dog) At the same time praise him as he is barking, because he is doing what you have asked him to do, so you are rewarding him with praise and approval.
Remember, always praise your dog when he is doing what you want him to do. Conversely, withhold your praise and affection when your dog is displaying the wrong behaviour. That means no touching, no talking, no eye contact!
Now, after a good few barks it is time to teach him to “shush” on command.
Some experts tell you to have a treat ready to give him to distract him when you give the shush command. I disagree with this. A dog that is guarding and aroused isn’t likely to be interested in a bit of cheese or a biscuit at this point. He’s too busy doing his job!
No – simply say “shush” but in much quieter way than the “woof” command. Say it in the way that you would when someones talking but you suddenly hear an important news announcement coming through on the TV or the radio, and you don’t want to miss a word.
As you say the “shush” command to your dog, you can also give a quick little sideways pull on your dogs collar. This will draw his attention to you, and help break his barking cycle.
Your body language at this point should be still, as if someone has said “freeze – don’t move!” as though you’re holding your breath waiting for something.
If he starts to bark, or even growls, again give the “shush” command, even quieter now, maybe another little tug on the side of his collar, while you freeze and act like you’re listening out for something, keeping very still.
Hopefully you are communicating this body language to your dog, and he is remaining silent and listening along with you.
After a few moments of this, and when he looks like he has finished attempting to bark, and is now remaining silent with you, you can call a stop to the exercise. Spring back to life and tell him good boy or girl and give him affection and a cuddle and then move straight off on to something else and encourage him to come with you. In other words, you have now moved away from the exercise, and you are taking his attention elsewhere.
Practise this every day, and soon you will be able to tell your dog to “woof” and, most of all, to “shush” on command without knocking on the door.
Now remember that this “shush” command is to be used to stop unnecessary barking, when it is inappropriate. However if your dog feels he has genuine reason to bark, to raise the alarm or to warn away someone or something, then obviously you must take notice of what he is trying to do or tell you. To tell him to shush when his barking is appropriate could undermine the your efforts in training him to woof and shush and command.
Stop Dog Barking