To Stop Dog Barking at People, Objects and Things..
You've got a decision to make because there are two different training methods to battle the issue. Our goal with this page is to stop dog barking at people, other dogs or anything that is triggered by aggressive or protective instinct in dogs, so let's get to it.
Deciding what training method to employ is the first step and it's a personal preference, so let's look at your options.
Correction reinforcement works by giving a physical correction followed by a command. And, positive reinforcement focuses on distracting and reconditioning actions with praise and reward. These two methods of dog training couldn't be more opposite each other and to throw another wrench in the cogs, some trainers use a little bit of both!
Good news is that either method can work to stop dog barking at people.. sweet! While I'll be brief on the correction reinforcement method, more time will be given to positive methods as both the dog training industry and its clients have been leaning in this direction for quite some time now.
Our first assignment is to look through the barking at the underlying issues. As with any bad habit or bad behavior, we must first try and determine if it's motivated by excitement, fear, aggression, protective instinct or other elevated state of mind. While training techniques discussed here may be similar to those used to control other types of barking
TIP: We've written specific articles that deal with different types of barking and you'll links to these pieces on out dog behavior and training page.
Training methods detailed in this article are for the purpose of dogs barking at people, other animals, moving objects and day to day things when triggered by excited, protective or aggressive energy.
Correction Reinforcement to Stop Dog Barking at People
While not my personal cup of tea, except with highly driven strong willed aggressive breeds, here's a run down of working with a problem dog to stop dog barking at people, other animals and things. We'll refer to a "correction" from this point forward which is often given with a training collar and lead, or, an e-collar triggered by remote control.
In brief, a correction is given at the first sign of a bark, or, as a reinforcement if the trainer notices the dog shifting focus again towards the offending object. A command is then given in an authorative voice such as "QUIET", or "STOP".
Customarily with a new dog, there will be a yelp the first time a correction is given. What a trainer is looking for is to break the dog's focus from the object or thing and gain focus between dog and trainer. Often, after the correction, a command is given such as a recall or down. When the dog complies a brief praise is given and at times, a soft touch or stroke for positive affirmation.
With correction training it doesn't take very long for the dog to catch on and eventually the correction will be eliminated so we're relying only on commands.
What's happening here to the dog? They are being reconditioned to associate an undesired action with discomfort and will soon stop barking at whatever the stimulus is to avoid discomfort. I know this sounds cruel but it works, and quickly. Correction reinforcement training has been the method of choice with many trainers for what seems like forever. I didn't write the rules on dog training folks so please take this training method with a grain of salt.
WARNING: You can permanently damage your dog both emotionally and physically if you employ correction training the wrong way. Please do not run out and grab a e-collar or choke collar thinking it's the answer to everything. Equipment techniques and commands must be appropriate and consistent or you can really mess up your dog at worst, or inadvertently reinforce the problem you're trying to fix.
Desensitize and reward to recondition with positive reinforcement..
TIP: The following training exercise will also work with a fearful dog if modified slightly. In this case by desensitizing and counterconditioning, we can change the way our dog associates with fear. Our aim is that with repetition and time, our dog will view something previously scary as a positive connection to treats and praise.
As our goal is to get our dog to stop barking at people we're going to try an desensitize her from the stimulus. This can work with people, cars, bicyclists, or other animate or non animate objects. This is a process, not a quick fix!
For the purpose of a dog barking at people.. With this exercise I'm going to use a person, obviously, but you can replace the stimulus with whatever your dog barks at. Don't forget to take notes as you go to monitor your progress. It's much more reassuring to look back and see baby steps are working rather than get frustrated thinking.. "we've been doing this forever".
Let's go.. we'll need to do a little acting now with help from a friend, family member or person willing to help. Eventually, we'll work up to actual strangers as things start to gel.
- With the first try start far away from your helper, move towards them until your dog notices them at a distance. Stay far enough back as not to trigger barking, then praise and reward your dog for being so well behaved. Step back and move away, praise and reward again.
- Next, repeat this process moving in a little closer, but far enough away so your dog does not bark. Praise and reward with a treat again, then move away, praise and reward.
- Again, repeat this process a few times and maintain the same distance. If you're getting to close and your dog starts to become agitated, you're moving too fast. Baby steps, remember? Our goal is to slowly get closer to your helper day by day, all the while reconditioning her mind that when a stranger comes in view a reward is eminent!
- With time focus will begin to shift to you once something or someone strange is spotted, this is what we're after as trainers! Once we condition our dogs to focus on us, reward, praises and commands are the easy part.
We'll work with this exercise as long as it takes until eventually the two of you can walk right up next to a stranger and still be in tune with each other. No more excited or aggressive mind getting in the way! Some dogs may begin to actually anticipate being treated when strange things are encountered. Big difference from being excited and aggressive don't you think?
TIPS: Always move slow, be patient and take as much time as needed here, this can be a week, three weeks or more. If you move too fast and your dog reverts to barking again, it's basically back to square one. Mix things up a little, have your helper dress in different colors on different days or wear a baseball cap one day and sunglasses the next.
With time you two will graduate to real strangers like people in your neighborhood, or at the local park. Should you achieve such success and are in fact side by side with a stranger, you can encourage they offer a low hand, palm up for your dog to sniff. If that goes well they may even move forward by petting them under the chin. Great job!
Barking at people or day to day things can be a tough nut to crack and you've got a decision to make about training methods. Positive reinforcement can be modified to desensitization and counterconditioning for success with fearful barking. while correction techniques will work quicker it's not advisable for fearful dogs. Clicker dog training may also be used to distract and redirect with great results! With your method of choice in mind, follow the tips on this page and the rest of our site to start training.
Be patient and persistent as some dogs can be hard headed and don't forget certain breeds are more genetically predisposed to be barkers. See related articles on our dog behavior and training main page to battle other barking issues and grab more information on clicker dog training here.