Dogs bark to communicate a variety of different messages - warnings, greetings, an expression of playfulness or a general call for attention. This is normal. However, you may face certain situations where you feel your pet barks excessively. Try identifying what triggers the behaviour and use systematic desensitisation and counter-conditioning techniques.
Here are some tips to control or reduce excessive barking
- Socialise your pet with other animals and people. Click here for tips on socialisation.
- Reward is the best motivation. Reward when he stops barking, and when he doesn't bark in a situation that would normally set him off.
- Turn away when he vocalises inappropriately. Even negative attention to a dog when he/she barks is rewarding the inappropriate behaviour.
- Exercise and play with your dog regularly. Many dogs bark in response to other dogs barking or as part of play. Try to increase non-vocal play (e.g. fetch) and exercise.
- Make your dog less responsive to the causes of his excessive barking. Gradually expose him to the stimulus and reward quiet behaviour with praise, toys, or treats.
- Counter-conditioning is an effective way to stop nuisance barking. That is, create a new, more desirable response to the stimuli, like playing with a chew toy rather than barking.
- If your dog is defending his territory, try blocking visual/hearing access to intruders on or near territory.
- Your dog might have anxiety related barking. Consult your vet regarding medications that may be useful for your situation.
- Consider enrolling your dog in obedience classes. With the knowledge from the classes, teach them a "settle" or "quiet" command to use during desensitisation.