In addition to the many positive experiences that dog owners have, there are also several that can be interpreted as negative or at least unwanted parts of the dog-owning experience. One of the most common “negative” issues when dealing with a dog is their tendency to bark.
In this blog, we’ll discuss why dogs bark, how to stop a dog from barking, and the benefits and drawbacks of using a training collar in dog barking training.
There is no single reason why dogs bark. In fact, there are many, which include barking as a warning sign, trying to get their owner’s attention, using it to instigate play, out of instinct or fear, and to drive another animal away. Not all barking is negative either, for example in the case of guard dogs, barking can be a helpful form of communication between you and your dog.
Believe it or not, researchers around the world have dedicated time and resources to discover what different dog’s barks might mean as well as how people interpret them.
According to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, most people assume that “low-pitched vocalizations tend to indicate that a dog feels threatened or upset, whereas high-pitched sounds tend to mean a dog wants to engage with someone or something. However, long, high-pitched sounds might mean a dog is anxious or fearful.”
Whether or not we know what they’re trying to say, it is safe to say that most people accept that barking is a natural part of a dog’s DNA. In this case, the key to dealing with barking is to train a dog to respond to your commands to stop barking without squashing the impulse to bark altogether.
There are a number of different techniques to stop a dog from barking. Here we’ll list four of these and how to employ them.
One of the most reliable techniques for stopping a dog from barking is to simply ignore it. Yelling, touching your dog, or even talking to your dog when they’re barking rewards them, creating a feedback loop that you don’t want, and showing them that if they bark long enough, you will pay attention to them.
Instead, try ignoring them until they stop, and then once they’re finished, reward their silence with a treat.
Oddly enough, the first step to this technique is to teach your dog the “speak” command, by rewarding them after two or three barks with a treat. Once you’ve taught your dog to “speak” on command, then you can begin to teach them to be quiet, by rewarding them with a treat when they stop barking.
A dog will only bark when they’ve got nothing else to do. If you begin giving your dog commands that inhibit barking when they come across barking stimuli, you can break the association they have.
Here is an example of this technique:
If your dog barks when someone opens your front door, first teach them to “go to their place,” rewarding them with a treat when they do. Once they’ve learned the command for “going to their place,” try giving this command while you or someone else opens your front door. Give your dog a reward every time he does not respond to the door stimulus.
If you know what’s causing your dog to bark, you may be able to gradually desensitize them to it. For example, if your dog responds to other dogs’ presence by barking, try having a friend bring their dog over for training. When your dog sees the other dog, feed him/her treats until the other dog has disappeared from view.
This technique may take several weeks to master, so be patient.
There are several schools of thought when it comes to dog training, some of which are strongly opposed to negative reinforcement and others which see the benefits. The debate is an interesting and ongoing one.
Psychologically speaking, “positive punishment” refers to the application of punishment, rather than the withdrawal of a stimulus. In other words, when a parents scolds their child for behavior that they don’t approve of, they are applying the concept of positive punishment. The same theory can apply to dogs.
One of the positive punishment methods that have been developed to help train a dog to stop barking is the training collar. Simply put, a training collar administers mild electric shocks through electrodes which make contact with the skin.
Training collars are designed to give “corrections” when they sense a dog beginning to bark or howl. These corrections usually consist of a low-current shock, often accompanied by an audible tone.
Some common arguments against the use of training collars are that not only do they cause pain and stress in the dog, they can easily be abused or used incorrectly, but there are equally effective and more humane training methods that employ positive rather than negative reinforcement.
If you decide that it’s time to do something about your dog’s excessive barking, it’s recommended that you consult a professional trainer before attempting the training. If you do decide that a training collar is the best option for you and your dog, make sure you use it with caution.