Ending Problem Barking, Part 2: Refusing Attention
Of all the ways your dog communicates, barking is the one that’s most likely to get your attention. For your dog, that particular vocalization is often a way of expressing excitement or demanding a reaction. It’s easy to understand why many dog owners develop a learned behavior in this situation in which they wind up rewarding their dog for problem barking with the attention they’re craving. It takes a lot of patience to be able to ignore a barking dog, but it is one of the few ways to train a dog not to bark to get a reaction.
Dogs are extremely intelligent creatures who are able to be trained, but who are also inadvertently able to train. They are able to realize easily that continuing to bark produces positive reinforcement. In some other situations, which we’ll touch on later, dogs also realize that they can train you out of negative but necessary stimulus like confinement with continued barking. In part two of a five-part series on problem barking, we’ll touch on refusing attention as a method for curbing the issue.
Put Away The Kibbles
Training your dog to stop problem barking when seeking food, treats or other positive reinforcements by ignoring the behavior can take a lot of patience. For you, it means listening to a lot of barking. For the dog, it means unlearning a habit and learning a good one, a process that can take some time. While your dog is smart enough to understand the cause and effect of their barking, they can’t comprehend that it bothers you. Positive reinforcement training performed consistently over time is one method that can make a significant difference in your dog’s behavior.
This method of training only works if you ignore the dog completely unless, of course, it is in actual distress. When your dog barks excessively for food, do not acknowledge her. Give her no verbal or physical indication that you are giving any attention to her behavior. Understand that the barking may go on for some time, but that if you lose your patience and give in, the dog will only persist longer the next time. When the barking finally stops, wait a few moments, and then praise the dog and give them their food. Over time, increase the time you wait after the barking to feed your pet. This will help them to understand over time that being consistently quiet is the behavior for which they will be rewarded.
Curbing Situational Problem Barking
If you have a house with little ones and a big dog, chances are there are times when your four legged furry friend is behind a baby gate – one they might not be particularly fond of, even with their box of 50 toys within their easy reach. Sheepdogs, Collies and other similar breeds often seem to be the angriest about this indignity, since they love trying to herd toddlers and young children as they scamper around the house. In order to get them to put up with the situation without barking constantly, you may have handed out a treat or two…or five. Sometimes, you might have just given up trying to accomplish what you were doing and let the dog out.
In this situation, figuring out how to stop a dog from barking should again come down to ignoring the behavior. No pets, praise, playtime or treats should be doled out until your pet calms down and is quiet for a minute or two. Rewarding him with a treat though he continues to be confined helps him to understand that he will be rewarded over time for being consistently quiet. Again, increasing the quiet intervals necessary before a treat is awarded over time helps your dog to be consistently quiet.
Long Term Training Success
We’ve established the importance of being consistent in your dog’s training as well as bringing other family members on board to participate and create healthy performance standards for your pet. For this training method to be successful in the long term, patience is a major factor. For those who have difficulty dealing with repetitive noises without getting frustrated, items like noise canceling headphones paired with a favorite podcast, playlist or show- at a low volume, since you still have to be able to hear your pup a little- can make the training process a little less frustrating. Earplugs can also help to dull the noise slightly and increase your tolerance threshold.