Why do dogs bark?
Barking is simply a way for dogs to communicate. It can mean a range of things, including that the dog is:
- In a playful mood
- Senses danger
- Locked or chained up and wants to be free
- Wanting to play with other dogs or people it can see
- Hungry or thirsty
- Left alone all day
- Bored and wants to play
- In need of exercise
Just as a baby will cry when they want or need something, a dog will bark to get attention. There is usually a good reason for the barking, so try to look for a cause before you retaliate. You may need to give him some more attention before you leave for work for the day, buy a second dog to keep him company (remembering that dogs in the wild socialise in packs) or take him to the vet for a health check-up. By solving your dog's problem, you may find that he simply stops barking on its own.
However, for those dogs that are well cared for but continue to bark, you may need to begin some basic dog training.
How can I stop my dog from barking?
If you have a vicious dog that may try to bite you, do not attempt to train him on your own. Rather hire a dog trainer or consider moving him into a different environment -- especially if you have kids.
In its very simplest form, you can try to train your dog to stop barking by going immediately to him after he barks (don't call him to you) and carrying out some sort of (humane) punishment. A very gentle smack on the nose may serve as a simple way to correct the behaviour, or you could try shouting "No" or spritzing a little water in his face. This is very simple action-and-response classical conditioning, so if you remain patient and keep it up, your dog should stop barking.
The point here is not to inflict any pain or harm on your dog, but rather teach him that barking in these situations is bad and that if he does it, he will inevitably suffer punishment. By establishing a clear link between the behaviour and the punishment, your dog will hopefully learn to predict the outcome before he barks -- and will stop himself from doing it. When your dog behaves himself and is quiet, reward him by playing together.
Dogs are social creatures, so isolating your dog after he barks could prove to be another effective form of training. Once again, you will need to do this immediately after your dog barks -- and it's important to do it each and every time -- until he learns that there is a definite link between the action and the punishment. Go to your dog and take him to any small space that will be boring for him, e.g. a bathroom, wardrobe or shed. Leave him in there for a few minutes, then release him again. Repeat this every time your dog barks and ideally he should soon learn to stop the nuisance barking unless it's absolutely necessary.
- Medication (e.g. if your dog is too stressed from a storm to be calmed down)
- Electronic collar
- Citronella collar
- Sound collar