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General Principles for Controlling Undesirable Barking

Command and Act Identically
Be patient with your dog and yourself. Changing behavior takes a lot of time, and you need to take it slowly, one step at a time. If you become angry at your dog, the chance to correctly modify the behavior will be gone. If we want to control barking, we need a dog who can obey us and relax. The dog needs to look to her owner for behavior clues. If we can call her, have her lie down (dogs do not bark as much when lying down) and stay, we are well on the way to solving a nuisance barking problem.

Use these common principles to modify barking behavior.

In most cases shouting "No" is only going to make matters worse since the dog is thinking you are barking too (and is probably happy you joined in).
Be consistent. Pick a one-word command e.g., "Enough" for the behavior you want and always use that word in the same tone of voice. Everyone in the household must use the same
Reward the dog for good behavior. Positive reinforcement is much more powerful than punishment. Physical punishment will do nothing but make your dog fearful of you and break down the bond you wish to have with her. Food treats are fine to use as a reward at first. Often, picking a very special treat like small pieces of cooked chicken or hot dog will make the reward seem even better. As time goes on, you will not give a treat every time, sometimes just rewarding with a "Good Dog" and a pat on the dog's chest.
Do not hug your dog, talk soothingly, or otherwise play into your dog's barking. Your dog may then believe there really was something of which to be alarmed, afraid, or anxious. This reinforces her behavior and she will likely bark even more the next time.
Control the situation. As much as possible, set up situations to use as training. Practice in short, frequent sessions, generally 5-10 minutes each.
Do not be afraid to ask an expert. Animal trainers, behaviorists, and your veterinarian can give you valuable advice. Having them witness your dog's barking episodes may give them valuable clues on helping you solve the barking problem.

There are different types of barkers. Use these specific suggestions to modify the behavior of alert/warning barkers.

Alert/Warning Barkers
Dogs that bark at mail carriers, joggers running by the house, or cyclers on the street naturally have their barking reinforced. They see the mail carrier, they bark, and the mail carrier leaves. The dog thinks, "Boy, I'm good. My barking made that person leave." In modifying the dog's behavior, we need to overcome this reinforcement.

Sometimes, by just preventing the dog from seeing the intruding mail carrier, we can solve the problem. Often, however, we need to do more. First, we must make sure we are not rewarding the dog for any type of barking. If the dog barks when she wants to eat, and we feed her, we are rewarding vocalization. If we try to ignore the barking, but eventually cave-in and give attention, the dog learns that short barks will not do the trick, but excessive and extended barking will.

After the dog has alerted us to an "intruder," we need a way to signal the dog after one or two barks that she was a good dog for warning us, but now we will take control. Often the command "Enough" will accomplish that goal.

To teach "Enough," set up a situation in which your puppy will bark, but not excessively; knock on the door, for instance. After one or two barks, stop knocking and make a sound or distraction that will get her to switch her attention to you. If she stops barking, immediately say "Enough" and reward her with a treat and praise. If she does not stop barking, put that delicious treat right in front of her nose. When she stops barking for a second or two say "Enough," wait a few more seconds and if she is quiet, give her the treat and praise. Timing is critical – she must be quiet when you give her the treat or she will think she is being rewarded for continuing to bark. Be sure to say "Enough" when she is quiet, not when she is barking. Later, as she associates "Enough" with being quiet, you can use it as a command to stop barking.

Remember not to inadvertently reinforce barking by giving verbal or physical reassurance to a barking dog.

Reinforcing Your Dogs Good Behavior While He's on Vacation
At Happy Tails, your dog’s good behavior will be reinforced. Your Happy Tails team has the experience and training to help bring out the best in your dog.

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