Dogs instinctively bark to warn others, but sometimes this natural behavior can go astray. Excessive barking is usually caused if your dog is bored or stressed. Although these are not the only triggers, they are the most common.
Both stress and boredom can be removed by exercising your dog. A tired dog is a good dog! But it’s not just about exercising his body, but his mind too. Walk him and engage him in obedience training.
Different breeds need different degrees of exercise to drain their energy, so make sure you’ve got the balance right.
If your dog has been excessively barking for a while, exercise alone may not work. It may take a great deal of time to reverse his behavior compared to a dog that has only recently started; because behavior becomes ingrained.
However, luckily for you, you can teach an old dog new tricks. You just need some patience.
Back to school
If the behavior is ingrained in your dog’s mind, then the answer is to retrain him from scratch. You need to teach him that excessive barking is unrewarding.
Create an environment where barking is unrewarding and quiet is rewarding. Every time he barks inappropriately, go to him and command ‘no’. Then immediately spray him in the face with water (using a clean bottle) or give him a very light, two-fingered tap on the nose.
Whatever you do, do not inflict pain or injure your dog. You only want to ensure that the unnecessary barking is followed by an unpleasant result. Don’t use force! But do make sure that, whatever the unlikable experience, he would want to avoid it in the future.
Go to him every time he barks inappropriately, for as long as it takes, until he associates his barking with unpleasantness.
On the flip side, when he’s quiet give him great praise and a fuss. Try not to use treats, because he’ll always expect them, which isn’t good for his health or your wallet! Some simple love and affection should do the trick.
If you cannot accomplish this retraining on your own or you have a particularly difficult or aggressive dog, then it is worth bringing in a professional to help. Just remember, however hard it is, where there’s a will, there’s a way.