How to Stop Excessive Barking
A puppy's bark can mean any number of things: hello, go away, what was that, pay attention to me, etc. Some puppys have a bark that is as bad as a bite. These are the puppys that are more vocal than we-or our neighbors-think is acceptable. If your puppy seems to bark excessively, the first step in stopping her behavior is to identify the reasons for it.
Some dog breeds tend to bark more than others. Beagles and certain toy breeds have a reputation for being "yappy." It is a trait they were bred for; a beagle barks constantly to alert the hunter as to the location of the prey, and toy puppys often served as early "invader alarms." Yet, even within breeds, some individuals are just more "talkative" than others.
Some owners unknowingly train their puppies to bark excessively. Anytime you reward your puppy for barking, you are encouraging her to repeat the behavior. The reward doesn't have to be a treat; any attention you give her reinforces the behavior. For example, if your puppy goes into a barking fit when you walk in the door, the best thing to do is ignore her. If you bend down and give her attention to quiet her, you have just given her what she wanted. Another common scenario is yelling at your puppy to stop barking. You yell, your puppy barks again, you yell, puppy barks, and on and on. Every time you yell, you are joining the puppy in her negative behavior, and therefore encouraging it.
There are many ways to break an excessive barking habit. Anti-bark collars release either a blast of citronella scent (which puppys dislike) or a mild shock when the puppy barks. Some people use these collars to break barking that is associated with certain times of day. However, the long-term success of this technique varies. The most humane and effective way to change a puppy's negative behavior is through training. Whether you choose to follow a how-to training book or work in person with a professional dog trainer, using positive techniques to break a barking habit is better for your puppy and your relationship with her.
Barking to alert her owner to potential danger is what your puppy's ancestors were bred to do, and the behavior has been genetically passed to her. It is her instinct to bark at the garbage truck when it pauses in front of your house. Even though the truck comes every week and causes no damage, she still must warn you that something big is outside. However, barking for extended periods of time at every new sound quickly becomes a problem. With patience, training and treats, you can teach your puppy when and how much barking is acceptable.
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