Unwanted barking can be a problem.
For a dog to bark is quite natural and we should not seek to eliminate all barking. Barking is a big part of how a dog communicates. It may bark because it is frightened and to scare away a perceived danger (other dogs, people walking past, or an unfamiliar noise), or it may be telling you something it needs (i want to come in, I want a wee, I want to play) and of course dogs can bark because they are bored. However, barking can be a nuisance to yourself and to your neighbours, although it is a problem which can be overcome.
Excessive barking is often related to an insecure dog who is attention seeking, so firstly we must ask ourselves – “Is there anything I can do to put my dog at ease, and give it the attention it needs?” This is a subject on which many books have been written, and animal behaviourists thrive. The best advice is to use common sense, check that your dog is not over-dominant, and train it with love. Be careful that you do not reward your dog for unwanted barking as this is very easy to do - you may seek to put it at ease by giving added attention and cuddling to calm your dog down. Rewarding barking is an easy trap to fall in to.
Perhaps our natural reaction to recurrent barking is to shout at the dog until it stops. This is something that most of us have done, and whilst it can bring short term results it seldom solves the problem and can even aggravate it by teaching the dog that loud is good and that you want to join in the barking!
Your dog may bark at visitors, when the doorbell rings, the newspaper drops through the letterbox etc. The first thing to do here is to train all the family in a united approach which may be to say “quiet” at the first bark and then command the dog to sit. In other words you are saying “Your job is done, now let me take over.”
To teach 'quiet' can be done in several ways. We prefer to combine the command with hand signals such as a finger to the lips as dogs tend to learn body language quicker than verbal commands. Repeat the command and when the dog is quiet - reward it. If the dog is barking excessively, it is probably too distracted for training, so wait until the barking dies down and then try - following with a reward.
Dogs often bark when playing outside within a secure garden, and any passerby or loud noise is the trigger for such unwanted barking. These are the times when you are not present, and which can be a cause of neighbour unrest which may even lead to a complaint to the local authorities.
It is here that modern training aids come into play in the form of an anti-bark collar. This should NEVER, NEVER, - EVER be an electric shock collar which is cruel. You should use a painless training collar which incorporates a harmless spray to discourage barking. This is the method favoured by vets and animal behaviourists, and which has been proven to be 88% effective.
This painless spray collar simply emits a spray at each bark, but is sufficiently tuned not to go off at any random loud noise so that the act of barking is easily associated with a sudden spray beneath the chin. It works! (well, 88% of the time)
The painless collar has the great advantage that you are able to decide where it is worn, and so you can associate places where barking is not wanted and places where it is OK – for instance indoors at night when the dog can warn against intruders.