How do I stop my dog barking?

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Controlling the noise level of your dog is an important part of being a responsible owner. After all, excessive barking can be annoying, not just for you but for your neighbours as well.

Why all the noise

The first step to managing the problem is to understand why a dog barks. Some dogs will bark to let you know they want something. Perhaps they are hungry, thirsty or just want to play.

When this becomes unreasonable, it is time to teach him other ways to attract your attention; like pawing or waiting by the door or bowl.

Playtime

Many dogs will bark when they see other dogs to invite them to come and play. This is perfectly normal, but it is up to you to decide how much barking is acceptable and make your dog wait to play until he can be quiet.

Home alone

Your dog may bark if left alone. Try leaving some music on, or playing the radio to provide familiar human noise. You can also give him some toys that require extended work and attention to keep him occupied while you're out.

A good way of reducing anxiety is to give your dog an old unwashed piece of clothing or anything that will smell strongly of his family.

Once you are home, be sure to enjoy some vigorous play and exercise with your dog. He'll have missed you and there's no better way of re-establishing the bond.

On guard

One of the most common reasons for a dog to bark is as an alarm. If your dog sees someone approaching the house he will bark to let you know. Since he sees you as the head of the pack, he will want you to investigate.

Some dogs have been bred to sound the alarm and this is a behaviour you may wish to encourage. Let your dog bark to get your attention but silence him once you are sure there is no intruder.

Stick to a system

In all aspects of dog training you need to have a system. Dogs respond to routine and this will greatly increase your chances of success. You may have already been to obedience classes with your puppy, if you didn't, then why not give it a go now? It's never too late to teach old dogs new tricks and they are great places to learn skills in handling your dog.

Hush

One way to teach your dog a 'hush' command is to silence or distract him every time he barks. Use something that makes a loud noise, like a can full of coins, to get his attention then issue a firm 'hush' command.

When your dog stops barking, praise and reward him. Never shout when you want him to stop, this can cause anxiety and undermine any learning. Also, you can easily confuse your dog if he thinks you are barking too. Yelling only reinforces the barking habit.

To summarise

Training is always the best way to correct your dog's behaviour. Remember though, that most barking is a normal part of being a dog. It is only when it becomes unreasonable and disrupting that you need to take action.

If the barking persists, your vet will be able to give additional advice and may even suggest some other techniques.

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