Ending Problem Barking, Part 5: Diversion
Chances are good that you’ve heard of diversion being used effectively on small children. When they are doing something that is bad or wrong but is too complex to fully explain to them, parents and caregivers often attempt to divert their attention to something else entirely, a strategy that often works. This same strategy can be applied to some degree to put a stop to dogs barking excessively. Your barking dog is responding to some kind of stimulus that is provoking him to vocalize. By diverting his attention to another activity that doesn’t involve barking – going to his bed, for instance – you can avoid listening to your dog bark over and over whenever the doorbell rings or the mailman comes. If you’re wondering how to stop a dog from barking, read on. This final part in our five-part series on problem barking tackles diversion as a method for handling excessive vocalizations.
Breaking The Barking Cycle With Diversion
If your dog flips out like clockwork whenever the doorbell rings, visitors might be something you’ve come to dread. Teaching your dog to divert his attention from that ringing doorbell by commanding him to perform a behavior that he does not associate with being noisy, like going to his pallet or sleep area, is one way many pet owners find success in quieting their dogs.
For your sake and the sake of your visitors, it’s best to practice this greeting training with another family member at a time when no one is actually planning on visiting. Stay inside with your dog and have your family member ring the doorbell outside. When your dog starts to bark, throw a treat onto their bed and command them to go there using whatever verbal command your dog is trained to respond to. This forces the dog to go to their bed to earn the reward. When your dog starts to understand this part of the training, start opening the door slightly after they eat their treat. If he starts to stir or react, the door must be quickly shut. Continue training your dog in this way until he no longer stirs to cause trouble when the doorbell rings or the door is opened. Reward him for staying quietly in his place.
Diversion Through Exercise
Some pet owners have trouble finding the time to give their dog the amount of exercise and stimulation they need every day on both a physical and mental level. This time spent together is crucial for a dog’s ongoing health, and, particularly depending on the breed, can cause behavioral problems such as problem barking. Taking care to make sure that your dog has a good physical workout each day and playing training games in which your pet has to earn rewards can help them to be fully stimulated, diverting their excess of energy into a positive situation that can benefit both you and your pet. Dogs who are taken on regular walks and who play training games on a regular basis tend to present with fewer behavioral problems and are more likely to be able to remain calm in stimulating situations.
Long Term Training Success
As much as you may want him to, the likelihood that your pet will immediately respond to this training with a 100% success rate is slim. Your dog has to learn to divert their behavior through long-term exposure to this strategy being consistently applied by both you and the other members of your household. Take every opportunity to continue teaching the behavior to your dog, remaining consistent with this specific strategy. Though our series has presented several effective ways to train dogs out of problem barking behavior, it’s crucial to note that only one of these methods should be taught at a time. As you can imagine, trying to teach your dog five different ways to stop barking is simply going to confuse him.
Part of your role as a pet owner is to provide your pet with the exercise and mental stimulus they need to thrive, and it’s very important to be honest with yourself about whether or not you are doing so. If a dog isn’t being fully engaged, there’s still a chance that none of these methods will curb their behavior; this is an unfortunate fact for which dogs themselves are often punished by being sent off to shelters and labeled as problem pets. Always be willing to try engaging and stimulating your pet more as a method of curbing problem behavior and diverting excess energy to productive activities.