My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Barking at Sounds

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Most dogs bark at some sounds. Some dogs have what is called a low threshold, meaning they bark at almost every sound, while other, high threshold dogs are only roused by certain, loud and/or uncommon sounds.

And the types of barks can vary. The high pitched, staccato barking can be fear, while the deep, serious barks can be confident protection of territory.

Whatever the reason, here are a few easy and effective starting places:

Do Not React – If you attempt to praise or soothe him into quieting or look at him whenever he barks, he may well think you approve of his behavior. So—Act, Do Not React, and refer back to our motto: Behave the way you want your dog to behave. In this case, calm is key.

Get Control – Meaning leave a leash on your dog when you’re home. This way, if he is too distracted to respond at first, you will better be able to create rewardable behavior by guiding him with the leash.

Reward – When he starts to bark, praise him for doing his job. (After all, one or two barks are not the problem, right? It’s the 20-30 barks!) Next, tell him “Stop it,” (or “Enough” or “Quiet” or “Thank You” or whatever you want the word to be) in a calm but firm tone. Immediately follow this by calling him to you. Grab hold of the leash so you can keep him near you and reward him for coming to you.

Redirect. Your dog needs a better idea. His idea is to bark, and that is what he will do until further notice. He may not know how to stop himself, so being told “no” leaves him with no clue what else he could do as an alternative. We suggest calling him to you. This is good general practice and very handy in all sorts of distraction situations. First try backing away while praising your dog. Squeeze/pulse the leash to prevent bracing against it and watch for the moment your dog casts even partial attention back your way. Good Dog! No success? Put a really good smelling bit of food right up against his nose (assuming always that it is safe to do so) then call him and back away. He gets the treat for turning and following you.

Redirect until Rewardable – If he continues to bark, continue to redirect him. Next go to a “Down.” Reward him for quieting. If he fails to quiet, back up so he gets up and down him again. Do this more and more quickly as a way to both demand his attention and settle his mind.

Stay Calm – This is not an argument or a debate. Be sure to praise him when he is quiet.

Keep him near you. Keep a hold of him so he cannot rush back to toward the sound. If you cannot hold on to him – crate him so he cannot retrigger his alarm.
Get Distance – Distance is your friend when dealing with distractions of all sorts. Most dogs will calm down to some degree as they get farther away from the sound. When you find that calm-down threshold, work your dog back and forth across it. Move a little closer, then when your dog shows any level of distraction back away again, rewarding him for following you and then rewarding him for quieting down.

Other Options
Blocking access to the trigger area. Meaning if he barks when he is napping by the front door, let’s prevent him from napping near the front door. No, that is not a long-term fix, but it is short-term relief.
Body blocking him away from the area
Crating
Consider using a head halter. We especially like the Halti for this work as it effectively closes the dog’s mouth.

Success is based on giving him something else to do rather than bark and then rewarding him for making a new and quieter choice.

by Sarah Wilson, MySmartPuppy.com

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