Completed behavior looks like: A dog that barks once or twice and then stops to observe the situation, or walks away to ignore it.
Barking is communication and should be treated as valuable information. The purpose of this tutorial is not to silence a dog but to teach the dog that one bark is sufficient communication and so they need not continue further.
Success with this training will only come if you truly recognize the dog is saying something and honestly acknowledge it. Ignoring barking will almost never make it cease.
From a purely training perspective, since barking is a dog-essential behavior, you will not be able to silence a dog completely even with heavy punishment. The best you can hope to achieve is a single bark. So while rewarding the barking with a treat seems counter-intuitive, it’s essential to keep barking at a minimum. Keeping in mind that all barking is being reinforced by something in the environment anyway.
If a dog is barking because she is left outside in a yard chained to a tree, it is not fair to silence her desperation. However, if a dog is barking because someone is walking towards the house, one bark is enough if we communicate to the dog that we recognize what they are saying.
The cue I use for this is “Thank you” because it’s much nicer than the other words I often feel like saying when my dog is communicating with me in times I find extremely inconvenient.
Barking at a door: When the dog barks, move towards the front door and look out. If someone is coming, let him or her inside, while holding your dog’s collar. Walk with your dog into the other room, fill a toy with FORSTA treats and give it to them. With repeated practice, you will end up with a dog that barks once and then runs to the freezer for treats. There is no need to rush, once the dog knows you are reliable, they will happily wait while you walk over.
Barking when left alone: Being isolated is difficult for dogs and should be taught in small increments of time. The dog should always be left with some sort of activity to comfort them. Offering them toys filled with food or treats hidden in the area beforehand will keep them occupied. If this behavior is intense see the tutorial on Separation Anxiety.
Barking at someone who comes inside the house: If the bark is threatening, calmly stroking the dog, tell them Thank You and put them in a separate room or area with a FORSTA filled toy. In the future, do this before the person walks into the house. If the dog is excitable but friendly, allow the dog to have interaction and a greeting from the guest, then tell them Thank You and walk over to the freezer to fill up a toy. Take your time. All the while the dog is focusing on you filling the toy, they are not barking. If they continue barking after you’ve presented the toy, put their leash on and calmly pet them while you talk with your guest. Eventually they should calm enough to focus on the treat filled toy. With practice and age, the dog will calm more quickly and focus on the treat filled toy more easily. If you don’t want to do this, then set up an area for the dog away from guests beforehand.
Barking at another dog during play: This is normal but can get annoying. I usually find that walking over, holding the collar and giving a few long backstrokes calms the dog a bit. Just a bit of distraction can put a break in the barking. If they continue, the play situation may be more than they are ready for, and in that case I find a toy to redirect the dogs attention towards. Or I walk around kicking stones and finding things in the grass to keep the dogs curiosity. A curious dog is often a quiet dog.
Barking at another dog while on a leash: I say Thank You and show them a Kong toy filled with FORSTA treats (they travel quite well without mess!). Walking along, I keep the toy in front of them and quicken my pace. Once we’ve passed, I drop a treat from the toy on the ground for them. If you don’t have any treats, simply walking by at a fast pace each time diminishes the barking.
Barking at night at noises: My dog does this whenever we are in new places. I comfort her with a touch on her back and a toy filled with treats to distract her enough until she calms enough to sleep.
Barking for your attention: On the very first bark, say Thank You and give them the attention, should they need to go outside for potty. After that, cue them that you are going to be unavailable by training PARK or GO LAY DOWN, which are separate tutorials.
Barking out of frustration: Find a way to end the frustration. If you’re confusing the dog, stop. If the dog is barking through a barrier, block their vision or remove the barrier, or train them to be comfortable behind it.
Barking at an animal up a tree: Walk over to the dog and tell them good job. Then tell them to search a different tree. I only did this a few times with my dogs and they are all silent about treeing animals. None of them are hounds though.
Barking at an animal underground: If you have a terrier, put them in a go to ground sport so they can practice this at certain times. Otherwise, I treat this the same as the tee behavior. I acknowledge it and then walk away.