A dog may bark for a variety of reasons, and expecting complete silence from them is unrealistic. A dog’s bark is a main method of communication, and they may be trying to sound an alarm, express insecurity, start a new game, elicit attention, or join in on an exciting moment, to name only a few of your dog’s reasons for emoting via his “bark box.”
Sometimes this barking can be a good thing; if a dog is trying alert their owner to danger, then silencing them is obviously the wrong move. But not every dog can be Lassie, and sometimes excessive barking can get on a pet owner’s nerves!
What to Do About the Barking
The best thing to do is to not to try to prevent your dog from barking, but to channel it into productive avenues.
While certain breeds are more vocal than others, all should be able to control themselves when a situation calls for quiet. The first thing to do is to stay calm. A barking dog can be infuriating, but if you start yelling as well, then this will only put your dog’s senses on higher alert.
Pick a one-word command: shouting “No” can be ineffective, as a dog may see this as you joining in on the barking. Instead, try speaking “Enough” in a firm tone.
If a dog is consistently barking at a certain person or thing, then you will have to take over and reintroduce the stimulus to your pet. Try to ally yourself with the object of the barking, and show your dog that it is not a threat.
Training a dog to “speak” on command can be a good way to get a handle on barking for attention seeking and can turn a negative into a positive. This way, your dog will be rewarded for the silence after the bark, and will learn that barking for attention is controlled by you, and is not otherwise desirable.
Finally, do not hug or otherwise try to comfort a dog if they are barking at something that is not a threat—by doing so, you only teach them that there may have been something to really be afraid of, and you reinforce the idea of that stimulus as a danger to them and their family.
A barking dog is a dog trying to communicate with you, and if they keep barking for long periods of time then it only means that their communication is ineffective. Try relating to your dog in a different way or distracting them, and remember that you are the leader of this pack, and in control of this environment!