Dogs bark. That’s kind of their job. They bark at delivery people, dogs passing by, weird noises, the garbage truck… But barking can become a problem when it’s frequent or prolonged. Especially if you live in an apartment. Or maybe, on a Zoom call for work.
Once your dog starts barking, it’s difficult to avoid reinforcing that barking if you really need them to stop. Anything you do- calling them, giving them attention, giving them a chew, even yelling at them- could reinforce barking. So your best bet, and the most pleasant one for both you and your dog, is to try to prevent barking from starting in the first place.
In this week’s video, which is a recording of a live session I did for our Facebook group last year, I discuss a few simple ways to reduce barking at home. Most of these involve reducing your dog’s exposure to the “triggers” of their barking, like the sight of delivery people, or outdoor noises.
As I mention in the video, if you need quiet right NOW (maybe you’re on a call), and your dog has started barking, there’s nothing wrong with giving them something to do to keep them quiet. “But aren’t I reinforcing barking?” Maybe. But in my opinion, giving them an activity to do that they enjoy is the best of the available alternatives in this urgent situation. Next time you have a call scheduled, plan ahead. Give your dog something REALLY good to chew on before your call starts. Or, maybe tire them out with a little Scent Work beforehand!
As always, I have to mention fear and anxiety. If your dog is fearful or anxious, and barks a lot, please talk with your vet or a veterinary behaviorist about whether anti-anxiety medication might help your dog. An anxious dog might not be able to engage with even the best chew or treat. Medication can be an important part of relieving your dog’s (and your) suffering in this case.