By request, here are some of the things I did to help Dusty with his barking problem. (Also I want to note that not all dogs are the same, and just like humans, not all dogs have the same learning style.)
How We Stopped Backyard Barking
- We do NOT put Dusty out in the backyard overnight. Many of our neighbors’ dogs sleep outdoors, and by sleep, I mean bark all night in their back yards. One of the first things we did for Dusty was crate train him so that he would have a safe place to sleep at night. A dog who is properly crate trained LOVES his crate and sees it as a good, safe place, to take a rest.
- Any time we catch Dusty barking in the back yard we immediately distract him from the behavior and bring him inside. Dusty was easy to distract just shouting “Hey!” in a firm tone and then calling him indoors was great for him, but I have used hand claps, shaker cans (coffee cans filled with coins or beans), whistles, squeaky toys, and other “distraction items” with dogs in the past. The main thing is to get the dog to stop the behavior on his own quickly and refocus his attention on you. It is best if you can then take your dog to a new situation away from whatever stimulated the barking in the first place.
- I do NOT punish the dog, I correct the dog. This goes for any unwanted behavior. The first step is always to stop the behavior in a non-aggressive manner. If the dog is already in a very high state of excitement it may take more to interrupt his behavior but eventually, your dog will learn to look at you when you ask him for his attention.
- I DO use stern tones, and the word “no” and strong body language when the dog does something that is unacceptable (serious offenses). Some dogs are what I would call “soft dogs”. Soft dogs tend to be more timid, or eager to please. A soft dog may have a meltdown with a firm verbal correction. Dusty is not a soft dog, but when I train soft dogs, I use more praise driven training methods and match my energy to the dog’s “softness”.
- The most important thing about dog training – learn how to read dog body language. I spend hours just watching dogs and learning to understand their non-verbal communication methods. A dog will tell you everything you need to know about how he is feeling, what he is about to do, if he is nervous, or happy to see you, etc. without using a single sound. I know what my dog is going to do before he does it because I pay attention to what he is saying. Dogs talk with their bodies, postures, and facial expressions before they try to communicate with sounds.
I strongly recommend studying your own dog’s body language, and studying dog body language and expressions even if you have the perfect dog at home already. There are LOTS of great resources in books as well as on the internet.