The hard thing about demand barking is that it is often just fun on its own, even without any other reward! With demand barking, we are trying to train our dogs NOT to bark (or otherwise vocalize) for things that they want. They may be barking for food, attention, play, to go outside…the list is really endless. The next hard thing about decreasing demand barking is that if not done correctly, it can be a long process. But, if you do it right, you can get it done in just a few weeks!
The key to decreasing and stopping demand barking is making sure it never works again. Do not “give in” just to get your dog to stop bark. Yes, we want to make sure all of our dog’s needs have been met. They do need to eat, exercise, enjoy time with us, and more. But, we want them to learn to ask for those things politely.
The first step in decreasing demand barking is also teaching our dog how to say please. If you just tell you dog “Don’t do this” without telling them what to do in place of it, we just create a vacuum they can fill with really any behavior. Oops!
There is a lot of advice out there on decreasing demand barking. And, in my opinion, a lot of it doesn’t really work! Many places will tell you to ignore it, but barking isn’t a behavior that is easy to extinguish through ignoring. Like I said, barking is fun all by itself, so if you ignore demand barking, often your dog will bark longer and louder to get your attention! Other people also suggest waiting for Fido to quick barking, then reward him. Waiting for Fido to be quiet, then treating, can work really well, but you need to make sure he’s quiet for 3 seconds or more, or ask him to do something else, too, to help switch gears.
Here’s how I suggest you train it:
As I stated above, we first need to be training our dog how to say please. They need a polite way to ask for our attention, their meals, play, and more. Learn more here.
Next, we need to put on our researcher hats. WHEN does our dog bark? WHAT do they want? Do they bark so that you will throw their ball? Do they bark when you’re sitting down for a meal because they want some scraps? For one week, write down when they bark, what you are doing, what you think they want, and what you do in response to their barking.
For this handout, we’ll use a dog that barks at you while you eat your meals as an example. He may be quite while you prepare the meal, but once you sit down, he starts barking and begging for a morsel of your dinner.
Management is Your Friend
The first thing is to try to make it so your dog can’t “practice” demand barking anymore, or it might bleed over to other places! He definitely can learn to be calm and quiet during meal time, and that he doesn’t need to have something everything you sit down. But for now, let’s find some way of managing the barking so we can train it. We want to offer our dog a “job” during the times they most often demand bark; meaty bones (raw only), bully sticks, a gooey tasty Kong, crating him in another room, ETC. We need to find a way to get him occupied, at least for now. This occupies your dog, keeps them happy, and keeps them out from under your feet. For most dogs, I suggest crating them in a room adjacent to the dining room.
For now, give your dog a job every time you sit down to eat unless you are setting up a training session. You will be able to move away from management within 2 to 3 weeks if you are dedicated to the training!
With demand barking, it’s best if we can stop our dog before he even starts, which is why I asked you to write down so many details around the barking!
Once your dog has a few days under his belt of practicing being occupied with something else (given to him a few minutes before you sit down), then you’re ready to start training. I would pick a night that is going to be “training night”. You might want to eat a snack first 😉
Again, we’ll be going with the “dog barking at you while you eat dinner” example.
- Go about your normal dinner prep routine, without giving your dog the fun things to keep him busy.
- For this example, Fide starts barking as soon as we sit down. SO, as soon as he starts barking, get up, take the food, put it away (preferably in the microwave or over where he can’t jump and grab it), and go do something else. He is likely barking because of the possibility that you might share your food with him, so if we remove that possibility, that will stop the barking.
- Do something else: go sit down in the living room, walk into a different room, go outside, whatever. Be occupied until your dog settles down and returns to “normal” behavior.
- Once he’s settled down, go back into the kitchen, get your food, walk back to the table, and sit back down.
- Repeat steps 2 through 4 until you are able to sit down and eat.
This is why you might want to have a snack before dinner…and just pick a night and commit. Do not give up this first session! It may take a while, but it is super important that you persist and stick to the plan.
A word of caution: The barking will likely get worse. This is called an extinction bust. Hang in there…this means it’s working! It’s just like when you’ve been going to a vending machine every day for months and getting the same thing. If one day, machine doesn’t give you your treat, you’re probably going to push the button again. And then push it harder. And then faster, and then maybe you’ll start kicking and yelling at it. You get the idea 🙂
Repeat 3 times a week or more. Outside of specific training sessions, provide your dog with a chew/Kong/job when you are eating.
This second process will help Fido understand that he doesn’t always get something while you eat, but there is the possibility that being calm and quiet may get him a fun chew (he learns this in phase one where we “manage” the barking by giving him a job any time we eat and aren’t training).
This same process works for pretty much any demand barking. Just plug in what triggers your dog to bark. If your dog barks for attention, you want to leave the room. If your dog barks for play, put away the toys or leave the room. If your dog barks every time you sit down on the couch, get up and go to the kitchen. So on and so forth.
Have questions about your specific situation? Send me the details and I’ll work on a plan for you!