Barking is part of the communication of dogs. Dogs communicate via expression, touch, smell and also sounds. The spoken language of dogs includes not only barking but also many other sounds, you can find more information here.
Reasons for barking
Often the barking of dogs is disturbing for us humans and it causes displeasure. But why? It is a part of the communication of our four-legged friends and almost always our dogs want to tell us something by barking. But what? That is very different.
Barking is self-rewarding for the dog, because endorphins are released. These have a pain-relieving and calming effect and thus help to reduce stress.
Dogs can bark because they are joyfull, excited, stressed, or also because they defend their territory, report a visit at the door, because they want attention from you or they are bored, as a game challenge or because they have to solve themselves. There are very many reasons. Do you know why your dog barks? Because the training approach depends on it.
Training opportunities for barking dogs
Like the reason to bark, the variant of the suitable training is to be considered individually. Attention: Barking is self-rewarding, i.e. the dog rewards itself by releasing endorphins.
- Ignore barking: That sounds very easy at first, because you don’t have to do anything. But it is not that simple. Ignoring means not looking, not touching, not addressing and not smiling about it inwardly. Ignoring the barking only helps if the dog wants to interact with us, e.g. to get attention from us. However, if the dog wants to draw our attention to something, possibly an intruder, the dog will continue to bark despite our ignorance and probably then take it “into his own hands”. If your darling barks out of fear, ignoring it can even intensify his feeling, as he feels left alone.
- Insert a quiet signal: You lay out some nice smelling treats. If the dog barks, from our point of view without any reason, go to the dog with the treats, say “enough” and hold the treats in front of the dog’s nose. Because he smells it, he stops barking. Now he can be praised verbally. With the treats you lead the dog away from the barking stimulus and only after a few quiet seconds does the dog get the treats in front of his nose.
If your dog knows the Clicker training, you can also click and reward him during the barking breaks (when taking a breath).
- Reward alternatives: Many dogs bark when the doorbell rings and also when the visitor arrives but does not greet him immediately. In this case, alternative behaviour is a very good option. This could be that the dog should sit down. Dog bark much less when sitting than when standing. By the way, the “sitting” is very friendly towards the visitor. Also a possibility would be it to connect the ringing at the door with “off into the basket”. This sometimes makes the biggest impression on guests.
- Avoid stress. The more relaxed your dog is, the better the chances are that he will not get into it so quickly.
- Increase frustration tolerance. Your darling needs to learn patience so that he doesn’t get frustrated if he doesn’t get something immediately.
- Avoid situations that are unpleasant for him. Do not lead your darling into situations when you know he will bark. Instead, practice at a great distance and slowly approach the trigger.
- The most sustained training is to explore the cause of the barking and work on it. If the dog has no reason to bark, he will not bark. The best way to do this is to get help from a professional dog trainer.
When training against barking, the use of anti-bark collars, Fisher-Discs and Co. should be avoided in any case, these are frightening stimuli and therefore relevant for animal protection! You can find more about this under: Aversive Training Methods.
Barking can have many reasons. It is important to find out why your pet barks and to direct your training towards it. Depending on the cause, an individual training variant is chosen. If the training is wrong, the behaviour can even get worse in the worst case, ask an expert.