Ask the Trainer: Nip barking in the bud
August 27, 2013
I have a 3-year-old Yorkie who barks … and barks … and then barks some more. I don't mind if he barks when someone is at the door and some other times, but how can I get him to stop when I want him to stop? Both when I'm with him and when he's at home alone?
Dogs bark for different reasons and some breeds are more prone to bark that others. There are alarm/alert barkers, demand barkers, frustration barkers, arousal barkers, boredom barkers, stress barkers, play barkers, and greeting barkers. It's helpful to identify why your dog is barking so you can identify the trigger and reinforcement then eliminate it.
It sounds like your Yorkie may be an arousal and/or stress barker. If you can identify specific things that trigger his barking, you will need to find a way to limit his access to those things so he can't continue to practice the behavior.
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An example of this is dogs who watch out the window and bark and anything that goes by. To control this you need to limit his access to the windows. You may need to gate him away from the windows or tether him near his bed. Once you've developed a plan to manage his access to triggers, then you need to teach him some cues so you have verbal control.
One approach is to teach him to how to Bark and be Quiet on cue. Putting unwanted behaviors like barking and jumping on cue can be a very effective way to control them. It is also helpful to teach an interrupter cue like "Ah Ah" followed by his name and Come. This should be used if he accidentally gains access to the trigger and starts to bark so you can get him away from it.
If you can't identify specific triggers, then he may be barking because of stress or anxiety. In this case, I would consult a veterinarian about treatment options to reduce anxiety. There are many homeopathic options which are very effective, but you will need to find a veterinarian who specializes in homeopathic medicine.
Giving anxious dogs something to do is another way to redirect their energy toward something productive.
Stuffed Kongs are a great way to keep a dog busy while you work. Soak some (or all) of his morning kibble in water until it is mushy then fill the Kong with it. Put a little peanut butter over the large hole and then freeze it. Let him work on these to get his food throughout the day. There are also a wide variety of puzzle toys available in pet stores and on-line.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Profes-sional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.