Pet Articles

Controlling Barking

Barking dogs – Dog barks too much – Why dogs bark – Getting your dog to stop barking

Dr. Stanley Coren

… To a dog, loud short words like “no!”, “shut up!”, “don’t bark!” sound just like barks. Think of it this way. The dog barks to signal a potential problem. Now you (who are suppose it to be the leader of the pack) come over and bark too. This clearly indicates that you agree that this is the right time to sound the alarm….

The procedure worked out by wild canines to stop barking is really quite simple. The pack leader, the puppy’s mother, or any pack member who is obviously higher in dominance ranking can give the signal for silence. To quiet barking, the dominant animal places its mouth over the offender’s muzzle, without actually biting, and then gives a short, low, and breathy growl. The low growl will not be heard very far, and is short in duration. The mouth over the muzzle is not actually inflicting pain, so there is no yelping or attempt to escape. Silence usually follows immediately.

Humans can mimic this behavior as a simple way to tell a dog to stop barking when it is near you. With your dog sitting at your left side, slip the fingers of your left hand under the collar at the back of the dog’s neck. Pull up on the collar with your left hand, while your right hand folds over the top of the dog’s muzzle and presses down. In a quiet, businesslike and unemotional tone, you simply say, “a Quiet.” You repeat this silencing maneuver whenever it is necessary. Depending upon the breed, it may take anywhere from two to a couple of dozen repetitions to associate the calmly stated command ” “Quiet” with an end to barking.

What you have done in this instance is to effectively copy the way in which the pack leader will silence a noisy puppy or other pack member. Your left hand on the collar is simply immobilizes the head. Your right hand serves the same function and communicates the same message as the leader’s mouth over the noisy animal’s muzzle. The softly spoken, “Quiet” mimics the short, low, breathy growl.

Be sure, however, that you use this procedure to stop a dog from barking only when barking is unnecessary, as in an obedience class or a public place. Remember that we specifically bred dogs to bark, so if your dog sounds the alarm at the approach of a stranger, or even at the sight of the cat outside your window, don’t correct him. If there is no cause for any action, just call him to your side and give him a quick pet or rub. By barking, your dog is only doing the job we designed him to do thousands of years ago….

Excerpted from How to Speak Dog from the chapter Talking Doggish and Doggerel
© Stanley Coren All rights reserved
Reprinted by permission
Dr. Stanley Coren is a professor of Psychology.
He has written 6 books on dogs and is the host
of the television show Good Dog!

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