“How do I teach my dog not to bark at non-threatening things, such as wildlife in the yard or another dog barking in the distance?
When the weather is nice, I like to have the windows open in my house. Unfortunately, I live on a very busy street and my dog loves to bark and alert me to everything that’s going on outside. This includes people walking by, the bus stopping at the corner, train whistles, squirrels on the fence and much more.
I didn’t want to give up having a nice breeze in my house, so I had to get this alarm barking under control. I don’t want my dog to never bark at anything—I like to know that someone is on the front porch or in my driveway—but I would prefer one or two barks and then quiet.
The best way to achieve this is through set ups at first. I have someone come to the front door and let my dog bark. I then ask for “Quiet, please!” in a calm voice and lure him over to his mat (or a dog bed can work also), taking as long as I need to get him over to the mat and into a down-stay. He is then rewarded with a chewy treat. For most dogs, keeping a down-stay and barking are incompatible- they can’t do both at the same time. After a bunch of practice sessions, the dog gets faster and faster at going to the mat when he hears “Quiet, please!” and the barking lessens.
Occasionally, some stimulus that is new and strange to the dog like a marching band or a car with a flat tire will set him off. I ask for “Quiet, please” but he can’t keep the down-stay and continues barking. Then I resort to a time-out. I give him a “Too, bad!” and put him in the bedroom at the back of the house and shut the door. He isn’t allowed out until the barking stops. Repeated consistently, this is very effective for cutting down on the incessant barking.
Another thing to consider is that the dog may be bored and barking is a way to off-set the feeling of boredom. Make sure your dog is well exercised and has plenty to do during the day. And if he is barking because he seems scared of something, talk to a trainer about positive reinforcement methods of counter-conditioning and desensitization.