Teaching Your Dog "Quiet"
"Hush Little Puppy -- Teaching Your Dog Not to Bark" by Dr. Ernie Ward
Barking is a normal behavior of dogs. Barking, baying, howling and growling are some of their chief means of communicating with each other and the world around them. Unfortunately, excessive barking can be annoying and undesirable when dogs live in human homes. While the goal of training is not to completely eliminate barking and vocalizations, we want to teach our dogs to stop barking when appropriate. Here are some basic rules and guidelines you can use to teach your dog to be "quiet."
Rule #1: Never yell at your dog. Yelling will often escalate and worsen these types of behaviors instead of correcting them. Additionally, yelling can create fear and anxiety directed toward you and can damage you and pet's bond.
Rule #2: Enlighten, don't frighten. When you interrupt a dog's undesirable behavior, be sure you're just loud enough to get your dog's attention and not causing fear. Shaking a can filled with rocks or coins, a hand-clap or clicker should be adequate to startle and distract most dogs and allow you to positively redirect their behavior. Screaming or making extremely loud noises will often simply cause your dog to become fearful and will hamper your efforts to train them effectively. Our goal is to teach, not terrify.
Rule #3: Training requires commitment, dedication and patience. Many dog owners want their dog's behavior corrected immediately. This is simply unrealistic. The best results come from owners willing to spend five to ten minutes twice a day for several weeks working on a specific issue. Our dogs are extremely intelligent. The problem is we are often attempting to curtail a normal component of dog behavior to conform within the human world. Be patient, kind and respectful. If you feel yourself becoming frustrated or upset, discontinue the training immediately. Your dog's ability to understand your emotional state is highly evolved and accurate. If you get distressed, they become upset and learning ceases. Remain cool, confident and compassionate at all times.
Rule #4: Anything that doesn't stop the undesired behavior is probably reinforcing it. This is a tough rule for rational and logical human beings to understand when dealing with dog behavior. We don't understand why yelling "Shut up!" at the top of our lungs doesn't result in our dogs ceasing to bark. Whatever technique you're using, if it isn't stopping the undesired behavior, it probably isn't doing any good and it may be doing harm. Try various techniques until you discover what works best for you and your pet. Remember, what works for one trainer, doctor or dog may not work for you. If you can't stop a behavior, your best approach is to ignore it until the dog resumes a normal, calm attitude and then reward them for this good behavior. I have a simple rule for pet owners: "Ignore the negative unless injurious and reward only the positive."
Teaching Your Dog "Quiet"
Step 1: You will typically need someone to help you during this type of training and a treat reward that your dog loves. If you know a certain sound or stimulus will provoke your dog's barking such as a telephone ring, door knock, or a visitor, create a training scenario to mimic that real-life situation. You should be approximately four to six feet away from your dog during this exercise. Have your partner create the barking-trigger. As soon as the first sound is made by your dog, look directly at your dog and confidently say in an even tone, "Quiet." As soon as your dog looks at you, call it to you and ask it to sit. Once it sits and is quiet, give the food reward and praise your dog liberally. Repeat four to seven times in a five to ten-minute period once or twice daily for two to four weeks. Gradually discontinue food rewards as your dog responds to praise and play. To summarize: 1) bark, 2) distract, 3) "quiet," 4) "come, sit," 5) reward with food, praise or play, 6) repeat.
Step 2: If your dog continues to bark, resumes barking or fails to come to you after called, interrupt the barking by making an attention-getting distraction noise such as shaking a can filled with coins, a clicker or similar device. It is important that the noise be just loud enough to get your dog's attention and cause them to look at you and not so loud as to frighten your dog. An appropriate response from your dog is a momentary cease of barking and looking toward the source of the sound. An excessive noise response would include sudden cowering, backing away from the source of the sound or abruptly fleeing the room and hiding. As soon as your dog responds to the noise and looks at you, maintain eye contact and confidently give a "quiet" command and call them to you. When they arrive, place them in a sit position and reward them generously for being quiet.
Step 3: If your dog still persists in barking despite a noise distraction and food rewards, you may want to try using a head halter. Place the head halter on your pet indoors and attach a six-foot leash. Repeat the barking-trigger. As soon as your dog makes a noise, gently tug on the head halter. Simultaneously, as your dog looks at you, issue a "quiet" command followed by "come" and "sit." Praise the quiet response.
Step 4: For some dogs or owners facing problems with neighbors or landlords, more drastic and immediate measures may be taken. Bark-activated citronella collars are used as a last resort in more complex cases. These collars emit an unpleasant odor made from grasses that dogs don't enjoy. When the dog barks, a tiny puff of citronella scent is released. As soon as the dog stops barking, use a "quiet" command followed by a "come, sit." This behavior-modification tool is best used under direct supervision and in the context of active training.
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