Dogs bark for a purpose. As a pack animal, the barking serves to communicate with the pack, even if the only other member of that pack is the dog owner. One of the most frequently asked questions is ‘how do I stop my dog from barking?’.

When a dog owner asks how to stop a dog from barking, the question is really ‘how do I turn off the behaviour?’. A simple way to turn ‘off’ the behaviour is to learn how to turn ‘on’ the behaviour. Yes, one of the simplest way to stop the dog from barking is to teach the dog to bark. In teaching the dog to bark, it is putting the behaviour under stimulus control. You control the barking. It can be a game to dog. However, it does teach the dog exactly what you, the owner and hopefully the pack leader, wants.

“Speak” (or whatever word you choose) triggers the barking. “Quiet” (or whatever word you chose) stops the barking. Without teaching the dog this pairing – what initiates the behaviour and what terminates the behaviour, it is extremely difficult for the dog to understand what behaviour is wanted. When the dog is barking, it is excited. If you have not taught the dog to understand the desired behaviour connected with the words, the barking will continue. The reason is that, unable to control the dogs barking, the owner will become upset and this reinforces the barking. Instead of quelling the barking, the owner being upset is all the more reason for the dog to bark. From the dog’s perspective, whatever has triggered the barking also has upset the leader of the pack. The barking is justified by the reaction the dog sees from the pack leader. Your reaction has reinforced the barking in a positive way – although it has been inadvertent.

If, on the other hand, the dog has learned to bark and to stop barking, then the owner is armed with an “off” switch. In teaching the dog to bark and to stop barking, the dog then knows exactly what is wanted and when it is wanted. The barking is a means of communicating to the owner. It is the owner’s responsibility to respond in kind and communicate effectively with the dog.

Catherine Forsythe
Director of Operations

[tags]dogs, dog training, pack leadership, voice commands, communication, catherine forsythe[/tags]