We give our pup more exercise than we get and feed her better-quality food than we eat. She’s the queen of the world. But her incessant barking at skateboarders, cartoon dogs on TV and anyone wearing red is kinda getting in the way of our undying love. Plus, the old “here’s a treat to distract you!” technique isn’t working. So we went straight to Jeff Franklin, world-renowned military and civilian dog trainer, for a little advice. Do we need our dogs to be police-trained? No. (Also: as if.) But can we seriously use some effective teaching methods? You bet. Here, Franklin’s best three tips for how to get your dog to stop barking already.
1. Choose One ‘Impressionable Correction’ and Stick with It
“This could be a verbal correction (‘no’ or ‘stop’), slip collar, pinch collar or my all-time favorite, the eCollar. Find the method you’re comfortable using always and forever, because you’ll be depending on it often if you want to successfully train your dog out of something. Do not use commands (sit, down, etc.)—you’ll just confuse your dog. You want your dog to learn that ‘no’ means ‘no’. So pick one, and hold it dear to your heart.”
2. Don’t Make Room for Gray Areas
“If you don’t clearly lay out the rules, your dog won’t know there are any rules. The rules must also must be corrected at the lowest level to make the behavior stop—just a little bark at that annoying bichon frise? It’s still a bark. They’re not playing by the rules—a correction is in order. What if barking at an innocent two-year-old is next? Don’t allow gray areas by ‘warning’ them or giving commands that avoid the issue. It is black-and-white: If your dog barks, then XYZ (aka your impressionable correction) happens in order to communicate the rules.”
3. Pick a ‘Magical Word’
“There are scenarios when you want your four-legged family member to bark. Usually in regard to something happening out of the ordinary in your environment—the UPS lady is dropping off a package; the neighbors are bringing over a casserole; or that ominous stranger is approaching the garage. But you need to be able to help your dog turn it off when told. For example, in my home a knock at the door is definitely going to get some serious barks. However, when we stay ‘stop’ (our magical word), then any further barks are in violation—remember rule #2? No gray areas. That means we go back to rule #1. It’s a simple language, but if you’re consistent, it works.”