Ask The Trainer: My dog won’t stop barking!
Andy Sands, is a Sarasota area dog trainer with Suncoast Good Citizen Dog. He’s bringing us answers here on Ask The Trainer to frequently asked questions.
How can I break my dog of sitting at the window and barking?
Dog’s bark. They bark to get your attention. They bark because they’ve heard something and want to let you and everyone else know about it. They also bark to guard their houses and fenced yards. Some dogs, (not unlike people) bark just to hear the sound of their own voices. And, even though there are many different reasons why dogs bark, excessive barking can become quite problematic.
Just like any other problem behavior, the only real way to correct it, is to interrupt the behavior as it is happening. This means you have to be present while it is happening. In addition, it also means that you have to remove any chance of the behavior happening while you are not around. Otherwise, the behavior will be self-reinforced. So, the first step is to be sure that your dog is put in a crate or in a separate room away from the window when there is no one home. When you are home, feel free to allow the dog to sit at the window.
To help with the uncontrollable barking, the first and most important step is to pull the dog’s attention away from the things that typically stimulate the barking. In doing so you are desensitizing the dog to the stimulus. The second the dog starts to bark, attempt to interrupt the barking with an unpleasant vocal sound, like a loud buzzer, and turn your back, or walk abruptly out of the room. As soon as the barking stops, (even if it’s 10 minutes later), quickly pop a high value treat in the dog’s mouth with a very happy “good dog” or similar verbal praise.
The loud buzzer noise is an attempt to divert the dog’s attention. By turning your back or leaving, you have removed all of your focus from the dog, which translates to everything that is good being taken away from the dog. You are refusing to give attention to, or acknowledge that the behavior is acceptable. Any attention you give to any behavior will reinforce it, which is typically why barking gets worse over time; we are yelling at the dog to stop. What you are doing that’s important is rewarding the behavior you want to see repeated; which is the non-bark.
This must be done over and over and over until you can’t imagine doing it again. Then do it another ten or fifteen times. In order to change deeply ingrained behavior, you have to reward the preferred behavior more than the number of times the dog has displayed the unwanted one. Do not be discouraged by this fact, just know how important it is to get as many successes as possible.
It is incredibly important to reward the dog for being quiet when faced with the stimulus that causes it to bark. Remember, dogs were bred to bark—it’s what they do. It’s up to you to tell the dog he or she has a choice to behave differently and by choosing to be quiet, will be greatly rewarded.