Dogs communicate primarily with their body language, but a large part of their emotions can be understood through their vocal communication. Some dogs, like scent dogs, toy dogs and terriers, tend toward barking more, while others, like sight hounds, barely let a yap escape their snout.

If a dog barks all the time it can be a bit of a nuisance, both to you and your neighbors. Barking can keep you up at night or terrify anyone approaching your house. You’ll soon learn that a bark can mean many different things, and before you stop your dog from barking, you should understand why they’re barking. Each time your dog opens their mouth, they’re communicating something – stress, happiness, boredom – and you should know how to respond to each case.

Redirecting (AKA the Positive Interrupt) – A Good Trick To Have Up Your Sleeve

If your dog barks uncontrollably at someone or something, it’s time to redirect him. When you redirect your pup, you take their attention away from whatever they’re focused on and bring it back to you. If they show antisocial behavior, like aggressively barking or biting, you should deal with this differently.

Before you start, make sure you have a few basic commands down. Good ones to know are sit, stay and come. Use your dog’s name and liberally give out treats when deserved, so that his name and the positive act of waiting for a command are linked in his brain. Choose a command noise- it can be “tsch,” a clicker, the dog’s name or some other verbal or non-verbal cue. Start out in a low distraction environment and make your command noise, accompanied by a tasty treat. To your dog, this positive reinforcement will link a reward with the act of not barking.

The reward doesn’t even have to be a treat, it could be a toy or even praise. Find my very favorite treats and toys in the shop section of my website here. Keep your command noise loud, and only give a reward when your dog’s complete attention is on you.

Training Your Dog to Ignore External Stimuli

Once you’ve got that down, now challenge your dog a bit. Try calling from another room, or moving to a slightly busier area. If you see something that might cause an outburst, get your dog’s attention before they even make a noise. Avoid repeatedly calling your command, instead make sure they understand the reward you’ll give them if they obey. If you say their name repeatedly, you’ll only desensitize them from your commands. If they bark, redirect your dog with the command. You might not get them to stop barking, but little by little you’ll shorten the duration of the bark. The goal here is to slowly increase exposure when he does well. Each time you test his comfort level a little, you desensitize him to external stimuli.

If you can redirect your pup everyday distractions, keep up the verbal praise, but only give out treats half the time. Your dog should respond to your command, treat or no treat. His response should now be automatic. Over time you’ll refine your technique by recognizing stimuli and redirecting early. If the mailman pulls up to your house, redirect your woofer before he can open his snout. Too late, and you won’t be able to rip him out of his barking “trance.”

Redirect, Repeat, and Reward

Remember to be consistent with praise, and occasionally reinforce with a reward. You’re not telling your dog “no,” you’re simply getting him to look at and refocus on you. You’re rewarding him for not going on a barking spree. Exposure and consistent training will teach your dog how to react correctly. Keep in mind that redirection is strictly meant to prevent unwanted behavior. Any other uses could confuse your dog and lead to inconsistencies. Examples of key times for redirection include:

  • Your dog is about to jump on someone
  • Uncontrollable barking
  • Approaching another dog a little too aggressively

Don’t be afraid to use short (no less than five minutes) training sessions repeated multiple times a day. By consistently implementing this technique, you’ll see a decrease in your dog’s barking in no time!

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RELATED POSTS: If you found this information helpful, check out How to Stop Your Dog from Biting and Nipping and How to Teach Your Dog to ‘COME’ When Called.