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Breaking the barking habit

Dog barking is part of your pet's life: Together with his facial expressions and gestures, he uses it to communicate. But what do you do if the barking gets out of hand and comes out of your furry friend completely uncontrollably? We explain how you can spare your nerves and calm your neighbours.

Why do dogs bark?

Your dog doesn't just bark: there is always a reason for barking - even if your dog barks excessively. To find out the reasons, you should know your dog well and understand him and the signals he gives you. Causes can be:

  • Boredom:

If your furry friend is bored and not exercised enough, he may demand your attention by barking.

  • Uncertainty:

Insecure dogs also often express themselves by barking. Things and situations that your four-legged friend is not familiar with or sudden changes such as a change of flat can make him insecure because he does not know how to behave properly.

  • Fear:

If your dog is afraid, this can be expressed by loud barking. Many things can frighten your dog: a bicycle rushing past you on your walk, people with walking sticks, in wheelchairs or on skateboards, being left alone or a loud noise. Your dog's body is more likely to be facing backwards and in a crouched position.

  • Aggression:

Aggressive barking is often accompanied by bared teeth and great excitement. Your dog leans forward and is even ready to attack. As the owner, you should remain calm. Try to manoeuvre your dog out of the situation in a confident manner. Your four-legged friend can also show aggressive behaviour on the leash; a dog trainer can help you to get a grip on this.

  • Excitement:

Exciting situations can trigger stress in your dog. For example, a visit from an unusually large number of people, to which your dog may react by barking. However, he may also bark with excitement when you leave for a walk, for example. This behaviour can also develop into a habit.

  • Danger and defence:

In case of imminent danger, your pet can also make itself known by barking. For example, your dog may perceive other dogs as threatening and fend them off by barking. Your four-legged friend may also see the ringing of the doorbell as a coming danger. He wants to guard and protect his territory, the flat, the garden or the house, by barking.

  • Joy/play:

But there can also be a positive reason behind it: If your furry friend is overjoyed, for example because you come home or you have his favourite toy in your hand, he can express this by barking.

  • Diseases or pain:

If your pet is in pain or sick, he can also tell you by barking.

How can I stop my dog from barking? Once you have found the trigger for your pet's barking, you can start working on getting him to stop barking so much. Your response to barking, how you train, will depend on the reason for his barking. If you have difficulty understanding what triggers your dog's barking, a dog trainer can help you. In any case, you should also consult a vet to make sure that your pet is not ill.

Wean off barking out of fear

If your dog barks out of insecurity, it may be because you are not confident enough. It is possible that your insecurity is transferred to your dog and he starts to bark defensively as soon as you meet another dog or a cyclist. He wants to bark at the opposite 'danger' and warn of it before it really becomes a dangerous situation. If this is the case with your barking dog, you can do the following:

  1. Work on your demeanour: This is the hardest part! If you have already had encounters that you could not control and in which your pet became loud, it is normal for you to develop insecurity. But try to encourage yourself and become more relaxed. We often unconsciously tense up in an uncomfortable situation. Try to let your arms hang loosely instead of tensing them.
  2. Sovereignty: If a situation arises in which your dog barks out of insecurity, remain as sovereign as possible! Do not hesitate and do not signal to your dog through your own insecurity that it could be a danger. Lead your dog at your normal pace past the person, object or animal.
  3. Distraction: During the encounter you can try to distract him. Bring out particularly appetising treats or his favourite toy. This way, you associate the exciting situation with something positive. Once this ritual is established, your dog will automatically turn to you during such encounters - in anticipation of the great game or treat.
  4. Insecurity becomes fear: If you do not work on your dog's insecurity, it can also turn into fear and aggression. If your furry friend is afraid, do not comfort him. The supposed encouragement reinforces his fear. Instead, you should praise him extensively with treats and your voice when he shows the desired behaviour.

Barking when alone

If your dog barks as soon as you leave the house, it may be that he suffers from separation anxiety. In this case, it's not the barking itself that's the problem, but the fear of being lost. But don't worry - you can work on that too with the Stay Alone Training!

  1. Strengthen the bond: First of all, it is important to strengthen your bond and build trust. You can do this through joint activities and exercises. Just as you build the bond with a puppy, it also works with an adult dog: through reliability, structure, empathy and above all time.
  2. Set up a retreat: Once your bond is stronger, the next step is to create a cosy and comfortable retreat for your dog. He should have access to this when he needs to be left alone. He should associate his place with something positive - you can feed him in this place or put his favourite toys or chews there.
  3. Move away slowly: Once he is busy with his snack or food, you can move away from your pet gradually. Stay out of sight for a short time and then back away. You should not praise him, but ignore him so that he stays in his relaxed position. If this works well, you can increase the time step by step.
  4. Exercise: Only a dog that is exhausted and tired can be relaxed in your absence. If you leave him alone at home after a workout at the dog school or a big walk, he will sleep in combination with the stay-alone training while you are away and forget about barking altogether.

Wean off barking when excited

This is what you can do when your dog barks with excitement.

  1. Ignore: Ignore your excited pelt-nose when she barks at you to do something. Whether it's to go for a walk or to get out of her box in the car so she can finally run. If you give in, she will do this every time in these situations because she has learned that this is the way to get there.
  2. Reward correct behaviour: When your dog is calm and relaxed, you can reward this correct behaviour. Only then can you go outside or to the dog park on your command.
  3. Impulse control: If your four-legged friend is generally a very excited dog, you should practise impulse control with him. This means that he can control his actions and emotions. He will learn not to always give in to stimuli and to keep himself under control even in exciting situations. You will see: If you work on his impulse control, he will also bark less.

Breaking the habit of territorial barking

Territorial behaviour is innate in your dog. In some dog breeds it is more pronounced than in others and may even be inbred. These include breeds such as the Kangal, the German Shepherd or the Hovawart. They want to protect house and yard and keep intruders away by barking. This behaviour can also be seen when the doorbell rings. Dogs quickly learn what the doorbell means: Often strangers are at the door, like the postman, or visitors come into the house and invade the dog's territory, which it tries to prevent by barking.

The same applies to the garden: If your four-legged friend often stands at the fence and barks at people or dogs passing by, he is defending his territory. This is how you can get your dog out of the habit of territorial barking:

  1. Territorial behaviour cannot be trained away: Because it is genetically determined. However, with the right training, you can make sure that it doesn't cause you any problems.
  2. Do not leave your four-legged friend alone in the garden: Do not leave your four-legged friend alone in the garden: Your dog should only enter the garden with you. Otherwise he will learn that he is responsible for safety there and the barking will increase. It's best to go out first and only allow your dog to follow you when you give the command - after you have secured everything. By the way, no one should enter your flat or house when you are not there and your territorial dog is home alone: for example, a neighbour to bring in the mail.
  3. Fixed resting place: hether in the garden or in the flat - assign your dog a fixed resting place from which he can neither see the front door nor the street or pavement bordering your garden. This way you show him that the responsibility does not lie with him.
  4. Don't scold loudly: If your dog barks, for example because he has heard a noise, you should not become loud and scold him. This is a confirmation to him that there really is danger. Instead, you can move in the direction of the noise, like to the front door, and then calmly turn to your attentive pet. Tell him that everything is fine and then return to your previous activity. If this becomes a ritual, he will soon learn that you care and will reduce his barking.
  5. Greet visitors yourself first: When visitors come into the house, you should send your dog to his lying place and greet the visitor first. Only when he is calm, he may say hello afterwards.

Breaking the habit of barking when playing

Barking is part of playing. It can also be an expression of anticipation or your dog wants to ask a fellow dog to play. Only if he barks excessively and does not want to stop barking during play and his buddy and he pushes each other up with barking, you should stop the game and work on the behaviour. This way you can break him of the habit of barking while playing:

  1. Interrupt the game: If your dog's barking becomes too much, you can interrupt the game. Take a break so that your four-legged friend can relax and calm down. If he calms down, you can resume the game. If he doesn't calm down at all, you should stop the game altogether.
  2. Repeat: If you keep interrupting the game with breaks as soon as your dog gets too excited, he will soon realise that the barking is not worth it. He learns to be quieter when playing.
  3. Impulse control: Here, too, it is worth working on your pet's impulse control. When he is more under control, he is no longer so excited during play and can play with joy but more calmly.

Our tip: Before you start any training against your dog's barking, you should be sure that there is no illness or pain behind his behaviour. Even if you don't notice any improvement despite training and can't find the reason for your dog's barking, take him to a vet and have him examined thoroughly.

Breaking the barking habit in puppies

Dog training starts at puppy age. Therefore, it is best to start dog training for controlled barking with your puppy. If your furry friend learns early on that he doesn't have to be loud in every situation, annoying barking habits won't creep in in the first place. This is how you proceed so that your neighbours and you as the dog owner can continue to enjoy your peace and quiet:

  1. Stop command: Before training, think of a command that signals your dog to stop barking, for example 'Stop' or 'Quiet'.
  2. Stop: If your young puppy starts barking, wait a moment. Let him bark 2-3 times and then say your stop signal calmly but firmly. Immediately after the signal, hold a treat in front of your puppy's nose: he will stop barking and turn to the treat.
  3. Increase the time span: From training to training you can increase the time span between your command and the treat. However, only reward him with the treat when he has really stopped barking. Because if he associates praise with barking and not with stopping, it can become a nerve-wracking habit.

With a little patience and training, you can make sure that your little one's barking doesn't get out of control. You can never completely break the barking habit. And that should not be your goal: Barking is a natural part of your dog's life.

Conclusion: Your four-legged darling is of course also allowed to bark! This ability is innate and should therefore not be completely suppressed. However, if your dog's barking is so excessive that it gets on your nerves, you can control his barking behaviour with a little training. Has your furry friend also driven you crazy with his constant barking? Tell us about your experience! Were you able to find out the reason quickly? And how did the training work for you? We are curious!

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