Combat Excessive Barking

I’ve got two little noise makers in my house. I’m talking barking! Lots of barking! They bark at everything! Hugo wasn’t really a barker until Holly came along but now he joins in with her crazy barking game!

I’ve tried lots of different techniques to deal with excessive barking including distraction, clapping hands and even those cans of compressed air, which by the way didn’t work! In fact it was so terrible that using it out on a walk made Holly so scared that she nearly wriggled free from her harness to get away from it. They work for some people but not for us, we don’t recommend those! I use separate techniques with Hugo and Holly as Holly’s reason for barking is slightly different to Hugo’s, so you might need to try a few things before you find what works for you.

Hugo’s barking is sporadic, if he’s tired he’ll bark at strange noises and sometimes he’ll bark at the sound of other dogs in the distance but his main gripe is with the TV. He doesn’t like animals on TV particularly dogs, cartoon dogs, a Lego dog and even an advert that had an origami dog in it! However his biggest TV adversaries are the meerkats at the beginning of Coronation Street! I’m not sure if it’s the high pitched voices, their little jerky movements on the screen, or the fact they’re animals, but he definitely doesn’t like them!

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Time Out

After the few failed attempts at correcting the excessive barking that I mentioned earlier, I eventually found the Time Out technique worked with Hugo. As soon as he started barking at the meerkats he was scooped up and placed in the hallway with the living room door closed behind him. I’d then count to five, open the door again and carry on as normal. If he barked again, the same happened, scoop him up swiftly and place him in time out for 5 seconds. And again. And again. And again! He needed to associate his barking with the consequence of being removed from me and from the nice cosy living room and it seems to have worked for him. If you’re trying this technique remember it’ll take time and it certainly won’t happen overnight but if you stick with it, it could work for you. Hugo’s a clever boy and realised quite quickly what was happening and now he doesn’t bark so much!

Holly’s barking seems to stem from her anxiousness, from a fear something or someone is invading her space. She’s learned that if she barks at a person walking past our house then they go away, if she barks at birds flying over the garden then they go away, if she barks at a motorbike making a noise then it goes away. Of course the person walking past our house carries on walking, the birds carry on flying and the motorbike disappears when the traffic light changes to green. But in Holly’s mind her barking made this happen and she successfully protected us from these ‘threats’!

Counter Conditioning

I knew Time Out training wasn’t going to cut it here so I  tried something I’ve used elsewhere in our training {see our post My Pug is anxious, not naughty} called Counter Conditioning.

First of all, find out what your dog’s trigger is, what makes them bark excessively. For Holly, because she has so many triggers, we started with people walking past outside. Once you know the trigger you help them to associate the trigger with happy feelings. Holly barks at person, she’s guarding me, and I don’t want her to stop alerting me by not barking at all (I just want to stop the excessive barking) so after one or two barks I tell her she’s a good girl then I give her a small chicken treat. I keep doing this over and over. It can take a while, and I sometimes felt like I was rewarding the barking, but what I was actually doing was helping Holly focus on me when the trigger was present, and eventually just a few small barks and then she looks at me to make sure everything’s ok. Now we don’t really need treats, just a ‘good girlie’ or a pat or a stroke and she’s happy.

In short, determine your dog’s trigger, help your dog to associate the trigger with happy feelings, teach focus and self-control & give good choice rewards!

Whatever method you use, remember to stick with it, even when you’re bored of getting up every five minutes to put them in time out (yes it will happen!) Some dogs just take longer to pick things up but it will happen!

Good luck!

Don’t forget to let me know how you get on in the comments section below!

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