The most common type of obsessive barking occurs when a dog is focused on what it cannot reach (usually out the window or at another dog while on a leash).  It may or may not happen when you are home with your dog, but it most certainly happens when you are gone! “How can I stop my dog from barking when I’m gone?” you may wonder, and I sincerely hope that these suggestions prove beneficial to you and your neighbors!

1) Exercise. If a dog is properly exercised, the occurrences of obsessive barking are almost entirely eliminated.  Walking, jogging, or biking with your dog are the best ways to exercise since they help you relate side-to-side with your dog (which is extremely important to all canines). Other exercise forms would be fetching, a trip to the dog park, fetching up and down the stairs, or having your dog learn to ride a treadmill. I recommend at least a 30 minute walk twice a day for a barker (you can read about mastering the walk here).

2) Training.  You can train your dog not to bark out the window by taking the following steps. First, make sure your dog is exercised. Second, place a leash on your dog (preferable not a flexi-leash since you cannot give a proper leash correction with one easily). Third, purposefully create the barking scenario. You need to make the barking occur so that you can stop it in that moment (thus showing your dog what is expected of them). For example, if your dog is a leash barker, walk past lots of other dogs. If your dog is a window barker, ask a friend to walk in front of the window with their dog. Fourth, correct early on. As soon as your dog begins to become obsessed (you’re looking for level 2 excitement–don’t wait until level 10 when they are already barking like crazy) give a calm, quiet leash correction to the side (think “snap” of the leash: loose, tense for 1 second, then loose again). Give the correction when your dog’s ears go up, his tail becomes alert, or he gets anxious.  Do not become frustrated. You are teaching your dog a new concept: that barking is no longer acceptable behavior. Remember that when you discipline your dog you are disagreeing with the behavior, not with the dog personally. Fifth, repeat, repeat, repeat!

Once your dog is no longer barking with a leash correction in front of many different dogs (or window distractions), take the leash off and repeat some more. You are now teaching your dog that it cannot bark even with the leash off. Now is the time to use auditory or physical corrections (snap your fingers, say “ah-ah”, block your dog from getting closer to its target, use “the touch“, etc). It will make much more sense to your dog if you come between them and the thing you are barking–do not try to call them away. Another note: if you have more than one dog that is an obsessive barker, target the stronger one/instigator. Whenever you have two dogs, one is the leader and one is the follower. By correcting the leader/instigator first, the follower will calm down too.

3) Don’t give them reason to worry. If your dog is a alone-at-home barker, one way to diminish barking is by conveying to them the idea that it’s no big deal to be home alone, and that the home is a place of rest. You can help your dog understand this by not working them up when you come and go. Don’t say “ok, honey, Mommy’s going to leave now, but you just stay home and be a good boy!” Nonchalantly pick up your keys and go without a word to your pup. When you come home, practice no touch, no talk, no eye contact to help your dog understand that it’s no big deal when you come home either (I realize that this takes a lot of self discipline, but it IS worth it to your pet!). Feel free to love and cuddle your dog like crazy when they are being calm. Your goal as pack leader and authority figure is to promote calmness in your canine (this is what pack leaders do in the wild).

4) Authority. As you take charge of your dog by showing them that you are in control of every situation, you will see their behavior improve in other areas of life as well. All dogs want to be followers. Your dog will live a more contented, happy-go-lucky life if you don’t let them rule the roost.

Lead your dog!