January is national “train your pet month,” so we’re going to dig into some common behavioural issues you may run into with your pup, starting with…excessive barking! It can be disruptive, frustrating, and even cause problems with your neighbours. The good news is that you can train your dog to stop alert barking at every person who passes by your window or outside noise that they hear.
Modify The Environment
The first step: determining what is triggering your dog to bark starting by analyzing the space where the barking is happening. If your dog is always barking in one room facing a busy portion of the street, the first step is to limit your pup’s access to that spot. If they jump up on a couch in front of the window, block or move the couch. Close the blinds or shutters. You can even put privacy film up! If your dog is crate trained, you may want to crate them while you’re out or use baby gates to block access to the room where they bark.
Modify the Emotional Response
It’s important to try to understand how your dog is feeling emotionally when they are alert barking. They perceive passerbyers as a threat, and are doing their best to protect you from it. They also get gratification from barking - they bark and the person passing by leaves. Your dog doesn’t know that the person outside was leaving either way! We want to change your dog’s emotional response when alert barking. The best way to do this is to counter condition them so that they have positive associations with the trigger rather than negative. As soon as your dog notices the trigger outside and before they start barking, give them a high-value treat. Keep giving them treats until the trigger is no longer visible. Continue to repeat this process, and you will find that over time your dog sees the trigger and looks to you for a reward. If your dog reacts to noise rather than a visual trigger, you can use the same technique by tossing them a high-value treat once you hear the sound but before they bark.
Teach a Quiet Command
It can be beneficial to teach a command to indicate that you want your dog to stop barking. Rather than yelling at them, tell them “thank you” or “quiet.” They may look at you when you speak - if they do, immediately reward them and give them a treat. Some dogs may be too distracted by the trigger to focus on you. You can help them out by putting a treat in your closed fist and placing your fist in front of their nose. As soon as they stop barking, say your quiet cue word and reward them.
Treat Them Away From the Crime
It can also be helpful to keep your treats away from the area where your dog barks. This will encourage your dog to leave that area, making it easier for them to practice their quiet command. It can also be helpful to reward them for small behaviours. If there is a trigger outside and your dog wakes up, give them a treat. If your dog growls but doesn’t bark, give them a treat. Continue to reward the behaviour that isn’t barking.
Let us know if you try any of these tips to stop your dog from alert barking, and how it goes for you!
Stay healthy, stay happy, stay curious #healthygang!
Lots of love,
-The healthybud team