As dog owners ourselves, we understand that the last thing you would want to do is to put a device on your dog that is potentially uncomfortable - or worse, something that could potentially harm or hurt them. Although we believe there is a time and a place for bark correction collars, we thought about setting that aside for now and talking instead about ways to correct your dog’s barking before you even consider buying a collar. For those who are already using a bark collar, these tips may supplement training for moments when you need some extra tricks up your sleeve.
Here are our 5 tips to train your dog without using a bark collar:
- Provide an alternative to barking
This may sound like a confusing one but a great way to explain it is by using the scenario of the Terrible Terrier who incessantly barks at visitor to his owner’s home. No amount of scolding can stop him once he starts.
Providing an alternative to barking in this instance means anticipating these trigger scenarios and training an alternative behaviour. For example, you can start by identifying a permanent spot in the house where you would like him to stay while you are greeting people at the door. When the doorbell rings, acknowledge your dog’s first few barks with a pat and say the verbal cue “bark” - you’re telling him it’s okay to bark at strangers. Bring him to his spot, preferably in a closed room or backyard and ask him to sit and stay.
Next, give the verbal cue “quiet” or “shhh”. Repeat this verbal cue or pat until he appears calmer and lessening his bark. Reward with a chewy treat or his favourite toy when barking completely stops. You can then proceed to greeting your guests. Note: This tip requires a lot of time, consistency and patient house visitors!
- Limit what the dog can see and access
Walk along any school street during drop off or pickup times and chances are you’ll find a dog stuck in the yard or house and barking non-stop. If this behavior is familiar to you, you’ll be happy to know that this type of unnecessary barking can be reduced dramatically by simply shutting the curtains if your dog is indoors, or limiting them to the backyard if they are outdoors. We’ve witnessed a dog completely stop barking at people walking past because he wasn’t allowed to run the few metres to the fence. Every situation will vary so you may have to try a few variations until you find what works best for your situation.
- Make sure your dog isn’t bored
Boredom is detrimental to your fur friend’s physical health and can lead to “doggie depression” if ignored. Barking and howling can be some of the ways your dog is crying out for help. It is important for any dog owner to assess their home setup and honestly ask, “Is my dog bored?”
A great way to start is by understanding the traits and characteristics of your dog’s breed. If mixed, do some research on the individual traits of each breed you know your dog is mixed with and go from there. Breeds like Border Collies and Cattle Dogs, for example, are bred for livestock farming and therefore need constant physical activities. They’re also super smart so teaching them tricks can help keep them stimulated. If you are particularly busy, it may even be worthwhile hiring a dog walker or minder to regularly walk or play with your pet. Other boredom busters include things like giant Kongs filled with peanut butter or uncut marrow bones.
- Consistency, consistency, consistency
It is imperative that you choose a training method- whether it is positive reinforcement or some other preferred method – and apply it consistently. It can take a lot of time and effort, but it is very rewarding as the results are normally long-lasting (occasional top up training may be required).
Even if you do decide that bark collars or other bark control devices are the way to go, these devices still need time to do what they need to do. Just because you paid hundreds of dollars for a device, overnight success is never guaranteed.
- Hire a qualified dog behaviour expert or trainer
Training your dog to address unwanted behaviours can be quite daunting – whether you are a first-time dog-owner, or you’ve had numerous dogs in the past. If you have the added hurdle ofowning or fostering a dog with history of trauma or abuse, they may not respond as well to any of the methods above. In this case, it may be best to hire a qualified dog trainer who, as part of their service, will give you practical ways to train your dog yourself. Make sure the training covers the variety of situations and settings you often share with your dog. For example, in addition to a training session at home, have one in the parks or walkways you frequent.
We hope these tips help, and if some of you would like to share some tips of your own, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.