We went to the animal shelter last weekend to visit with the shelter pets and give them some one-on-one attention. We do this fairly often and it always pulls on my heart strings; I want to bring carloads of the sweet, homeless animals home with us, but I know it’s not feasible so I stay strong and do what we’re there to do.
On this visit, however, my heart strings were nearly ripped out of my chest. The puppies! Our local shelters are bursting with loveable little puppies. When I got over the initial cuteness-overload response, this made perfect sense. One of the most common reasons dogs are taken to animal shelters is because of excessive barking. This time of year, many puppies that were given as gifts over the holidays are now being relinquished to shelters for things like barking and biting and generally being a puppy. It’s reported that one-fifth of all the dogs adopted from shelters are returned within a few months. What a sad statistic.
Our recent shelter visit compelled me to review my previous article on Tips to Curb Puppy Biting and Aggression and expand the subject to include excessive puppy barking. My goal is to educate new puppy owners on what to expect from young, precocious pups and offer suggestions to curb or even prevent these unwanted behaviors.
Why does my puppy bark so much?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, but it usually boils down to some form of communication, boredom, a request for attention, or a response to a perceived threat. Your dog wants to be a contributing member of the family and they often assign themselves the role of the protector. Everything is new to a puppy, so his barking may be a warning that a garbage truck is nearby or a neighbor is walking past the house or your hat is on crooked.
How can I control all this barking?
Even though this sounds counterintuitive, the best way to curb barking is to encourage it. That’s right; train your puppy to “speak” on command. Hold a CANIDAE dog treat up and issue a “speak” command. When your puppy barks, reward him. Once he’s mastered that, use the same technique but this time, lower your voice and say “whisper.” Keep with it until your pup understands that a full voice “speak” means to give a real bark, and a softly issued “whisper” means to give a soft bark.
Now that your pup knows how to speak and whisper, use the same technique but say the word “quiet” in the softest voice you can manage. You get the picture; you’re trying to teach your dog to be quiet on command.
Another effective method is to teach your dog to have a bark maximum. Decide what you can tolerate, maybe it’s three or four times, and then interrupt him with praise such as “good bark, good dog, now quiet” and a treat. He will likely stop barking so he can chew the treat. If you continue to do this when he barks, allowing him the same number of barks every time, he’ll eventually catch on.
Remember that puppies do not have a long attention span, so make these training exercises short and fun. Offer plenty of praise and treats, and always end your training sessions on a high note.
What else can I do?
Provide your puppy with plenty of mental and physical stimulation to relieve boredom.
Avoid shouting at your pup when he barks. When you raise your voice, all your puppy hears is barking. He thinks you’re joining in and it inspires him to bark more. He takes shouting a sign of reinforcement.
Do not come running every time he barks at the door; that’s encouraging the behavior.
Remove the stimulation. If your dog barks at everything that passes the house, something as simple as closing the curtains will help. Then create ways to desensitize your dog to the stimulation.
Yes, adding a puppy to your family is work, but it is well worth it. The earlier you start training your puppy not to bark, the easier it will be. Good luck, and have fun!
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell