Why does your dog bark? Why not!
So many dog owners have the same question. Why does my Jack bark... incessantly in fact. At anything. At anyone. At objects. At doorbells. At other dogs. Make it stop the owners plead. "No really, I'll do anything!!" "I'm serious, help help help!"
When it's all said and done, the answer is pretty simple. Jacks bark because Jacks like to bark. It's fun. They get to be loud and rowdy. There is no pressing reason for them not too bark. The key is and the big "aha" moment I had was that my Jacks had not been properly incentavized to be quiet. My Jacks barked so loud and long when the doorbell rang that I thought my postman was going to stop delivering mail. Now, with the proper training (and some treats) I don't worry as much when people come to the door. While nobody should expect a Jack to be completely silent, it is definitely possible to cut down on excessive barking. Besides, if someone were to break into my home, I would want my dogs to let me know :-)
The first step to cutting down on barking is to teach your Jack to be "quiet". Yelling at your Jack is not the answer and will backfire because raising your voice only encourages your Jack to bark more since he thinks you are joining in with the pack. He also doesn't get "shut up" or "stop that barking".....even though that is what you might be thinking inside your head! To teach your Jack to be quiet, you can practice by finding an opportunity when your Jack is barking and say calmly and sternly "quiet" while putting your finger to your lips. Have high valued treats available (chicken for my Bella) and do not give your Jack anything until he has stopped barking..... even if you can catch him for just a split second. Just be sure not to reward him when he is barking. Eventually your dog will pair being quiet with getting a treat. Remember, when it comes to training your dog, patience is a virtue. It is not going to happen over night. Training requires consistency and practice. The sooner you deal with barking behavior the less chance there is that your dog will make it habit forming. And just a side note, many owners ask about shock collars for their Jacks. Shock collars are special collars that give dogs a zing or emit a loud noise or citronella smell when they bark. While some owners have found them helpful, I personally don't recommend them. The number one reason I don't recommend them is that you are only correcting situational behavior and you can be masking why the actual behavior is occuring. And in some dogs, the shock can make them aggressive. A shock collar should not be used in place of effective teaching and relationship building. Another side note is muzzles. A muzzle is good for certain situations especially ones that you are concerned about your dog possibly getting too nippy but it is not to be used to keep your dog from barking and should not be left on for long periods of time.
The second step is to figure out what triggers your Jack to bark. Is it a ringing doorbell? Is it another dog? Is it when he is lonely? Has he had enough exercise? I am going to list some common reasons and solutions below.
1. Your Jack is being protective/territorial. Your Jack perceives a threat to him or his house and he responds to it. A good way to cut down on this type of barking is to limit his access to what he can see. If you have windows, try to cover them up with a shade or an opaque film that can't be moved. An open fence in a backyard might need some wood to block his view.
2. Your Jack is bored or lonely. Jacks are like in humans in that if they are bored they often don't know what to do with themselves. You or I can turn on the tv or go for a walk but your Jack doesn't have that option. If your dog stays outside while you are gone or at night, it might be a good idea to bring him inside. With less distractions inside, your dog may be more inclined to sleep quietly. It will also lessen the impact on the neighbors! But dogs can get bored inside too. Leaving out some food dispensing toys such as a Kong can provide a little bit of stimulation to keep your Jack busy. For those who work a full day you may want to consider hiring a dog walker or someone to come in to engage your dog for a bit especially if you have a younger pup. If you have it in your area, doggy daycare one or two days a week can provide some added stimulation too. Regular and vigerous exercise also helps. A tired dog is a quiet dog.
3. Your Jack likes to announce any visitor that comes to the door with a barking serenade. New people and sounds are exciting to your Jack and he is expressing this by barking. In advance, pick a spot that you can have your dog sit and wait at. Make sure it is within viewing distance of the door. Practice having him sitting in this spot as part of your daily training routine and pair it with treats as you do it. Don't add in the doorbell just yet. Once he can reliably get to this spot you can work on opening the door (without the presence of people) while keeping him in place at his spot. Gradually practice adding on the doorbell. Remember not to reward him if he is barking!! He will break from his spot most likely at first but in time should learn that he needs to wait quietly especially if he wants a treat. Keep treats stashed near your front door so you can work on his barking when the door rings unexpectedly. Cue your visiors to ignore your dog if he is barking. If he is not able to calm down and continues to bark, you can remove him from the situation by putting him in another room away from all the action so he associates his barking with not getting to be a part of the fun.
Dogs get excited when family regulars come home as well. So when you get home from being out, make sure you don't give your dog any attention if he is barking. Wait until there is no barking before you address him or give any eye contact, then reward him with attention and remind him that he is a good dog for being "quiet".
4. Your Jack loves to be the center of attention and seeks you out. Maybe your Jack wants his water bowl filled or needs to be let out. Barking excessively to get what he wants is a learned behavior (versus one or two barks). You have rewarded his barking by fulfilling his needs. So if your Jack does this you now need to back off. If he barks you need to ignore him. Wait until he is quiet and then wait a few minutes longer then that before you do what he is asking of you.
5. Your Jack literally barks all the time and has a very very hard time with seperation. If you have tried many of the techniques above and really nothing seems to be working then it may be time to call in a behavioral specialist who specializes with this type of anxiety. The therapist can have specialized techniques or may even suggest medication to help allieviate compulsive barking.
Above are some simple techniques that can help. Remember, Rome was not built in a day. As with any type of dog training, it doesn't happen overnight. You must be consistent!
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