How To Stop
Your Dog From Barking – Training Your Dog To Keep Quiet
Quieting a barking dog is a quick and easy process. Really.
It also doesn’t cost any money. But it’s not an
obvious process - witness the many dogs barking all the time
in parks, backyards on street corners, with their owners tugging
at their leash and yelling at them and the dogs completely
ignoring their commands. My dog was driving me crazy until
I learned how to stop his barking.
My dog barked and whined all the time, and it
was a breed (husky), that was known for making a lot of noise.
The situation was especially bad when the doorbell rang or
he saw strangers. It was almost impossible to stop him once
he started, and if there was another dog involved, forget
it – my dog would yap his head off until the dogs were
separated and out of sight.
One weekend, though, my friend came over to
visit. She worked at the Chicago Zoo and knew animals better
than anyone I had ever seen. In an hour she had my dog completely
quiet, and she taught me how to do it, too. One hour to solve
a problem that was driving me crazy for the last three years!
The secret is not intuitive. First you teach
the dog to bark(!) I thought my friend was insane when she
told me this. Obviously my dog knew how to bark because he
barked and whined all the time. But she explained that while
my dog barked a lot, he couldn’t bark on command. First
she taught him to bark on command, and then she taught him
to be quiet on command. The whole process took less than an
hour. My dog is pretty smart, so it may take your dog longer,
but still, it’s an incredibly effective technique, and
now, two years later, my dog still doesn’t give me trouble.
What a great afternoon!
There are two elements at work here: positive
reinforcement and intermittent reinforcement. Positive reinforcement
teaches the behavior, and intermittent reinforcement keeps
the behavior permanent. Negative reinforcement is just not
a strong inducer of behavior. Negative reinforcement like
shock collars or saying “No” does work to a certain
extent, but studies have shown it to be about 10 times less
effective than positive reinforcement.
Everything she did was very clear and precise,
which was much of the reason she got her results so quickly.
Your results may vary, but the clearer and more precise you
can make everything, the better.
First, go on a long walk with your dog to get him a lot of
exercise. Your dog can’t learn when he’s all riled
Teaching your dog to bark: Then get a box of
treats. Then look at your dog. When he barks, immediately
praise him and give him a treat. Don’t let any time
elapse between the bark and the treat. Pretty soon he’ll
be barking a lot. Right now, the behavior is coming before
the cue. Shape the behavior first, and then add your cue.
Teaching your dog to bark on command: Then go
away for a few minutes and come back. Ignore his barking and
ignore everything else he does. Just stand there, doing nothing,
not rewarding him at all, not even looking at him. It may
take a long time, but eventually your dog will calm down,
stop barking, and start doing his own thing. Once your dog
calms down and stops barking, start working with him again.
This time, only give him a treat when you say “Speak”
and point at him, and then he barks. 1. Verbal command and
point. 2. Bark. 3. Reward. Don’t give him a treat for
just barking on his own. This part will take a while, but
he will eventually understand the command. You’re rewarding
him for behavior he already is predisposed to do, you’re
just associating a command with it.
Teaching your dog to be quiet: Go away for a few minutes,
and then come back. He’ll probably be barking a lot
when you come back, but again, stay totally still and don’t
reward him at all (no praising, no eye contact, nothing).
Once he stops barking, count to five slowly to yourself. You
may have to wait a long time before he’ll stop barking
enough so a full count of five, but it will happen eventually.
Once you can count to five without any barking, then reward
him with praise and a treat. Notice that at this point, the
behavior comes before the cue. Shape the behavior first, and
then add your cue.
Teaching your dog to be quiet on demand: Keep
that up for a while until the behavior sinks in, and then
add the command. When he’s not barking, hold up your
hand as if you’re signaling someone to stop, and say
the command “Quiet”. If he’s quiet, then
give him a treat and praise. So the order is 1. Verbal command
and hand signal. 2. Dog is quiet. 3. Reward. Soon your dog
will know how to be quiet on demand.
After a while, the treats won’t be necessary,
and even verbal praise won’t be necessary every time.
The praise at irregular intervals is the intermittent reinforcement
part of the picture, and is very powerful. Intermittent reinforcement
works better than if you reward behavior every single time.
Soon you’ll have a dog that will go totally
quiet when you tell him to!
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