Demand barking can become a very big problem for people and their dogs. It is definitely “treatable” but you have to change the way you do things when it happens. For example, if your dog barks when the want to go on a walk NEVER put the leash on while they are barking because what happens is they learn “if I bark I get to go for a walk”. The walk itself has become the reward and it reinforces the barking which means the dog will do MORE of it. It’s all about cause and effect. For me, if a dog is barking when I pick up a leash I put the leash down and walk away. I will return and try to leash them QUICKLY to avoid the barking (even if you have to do this in another area from before) and the walk becomes the reward for quiet. I will say “good quiet” while I leash. If they bark, again I drop the leash and walk away. Hang in there and be quick to do what they want BEFORE the barking starts and use “good quiet” a lot so they learn it.
If your dog barks at mealtime the same is true. They bark to rush you and you get them their food. They just trained you.
I am NOT suggesting we ever withhold or wait to feed our dogs but you will need to change HOW you participate in this exchange if you want to help your dog to stop barking for food, walks, play, etc.
Another example is barking or jumping during play. If you are holding a toy and your dog either jumps on your or barks and you throw the toy you just reinforced the barking with a reward and it’s guaranteed to get you more barking.
What to do if your dog barks at you all the time for things? You have to COMMIT to changing the behavior and trying to understand your dog’s needs and fulfill them but in a different way to avoid this ongoing problem.
I’ll discuss the food bowl and give you a few examples of how to stop your dog from demand barking. Let’s say your dog barks while you prepare their meal. Some ideas to stop this would be:
- Prepare their meal in a garage or different room when they aren’t paying attention (or have someone keep them distracted).
- Quickly give them the meal before they have time to bark and say “good quiet” – if they bark go back in the room and wait for them to stop and repeat.
- Continue to train “good quiet” throughout the day by saying it anytime your dog isn’t barking and rewarding it with a treat anytime they WOULD have barked and didn’t or just before they would normally bark. Offer the treat while saying “good quiet”. This way you can ask them to be Quiet later when they have learned the meaning (don’t rush this or it won’t work).
Here is a second solution for demand barking for meals:
- Have a partner help you – give them and handful of treats. (if you don't have a partner you can do this on your own)
- Have said partner work with the dog about 10 ft away from the prep area.
- As soon as you have their food bowl have the partner catch the quiet BEFORE the barking and have them toss the treat away from you so the dog has to find it and eat it (this will give you a bit of time and relief). The moment the dog finds the treat have the partner call them back and repeat. If your dog won’t focus on this game try the other version above.
- Continue this game until the meal is ready and QUICKLY put the bowl down when your dog is QUIET and say “Good quiet! The food bowl now became the reward for quiet.
- As you practice this the partner will slow down on the time between treats then taper them off – I recommend you always continue with verbal praise when teaching a new word.
A more advanced approach to demand barking relief is:
Teaching a dog to “wait” on a mat is the best way to help with demand barking during food prep. Training them to wait for a treat would be the best start (I call it Leave It and have videos on how to teach it) then graduate from there. Once trained to lay on a mat if they bark you can just put the bowl away for a second (out of reach), walk away and start again. There is a blog post on this from May 4th, 2022 and I also offer a complete training program for mat training for under $10. You can access that by clicking here.
NOTES: I hope I don’t add confusion to this process but one important point is to avoid accidentally teaching a “chain”. This means: The dog barks, you toss the treat they return and bark again, you toss the treat. Please don’t do ANYTHING after a bark other than turn or walk away (make NO eye contact and say nothing). By doing the opposite of what the dog wants (taking our attention completely off of them) we negate the behavior. Wait a FEW SECONDS before reinforcing quiet. If you don’t you will have a dog that learns to bark, be quiet and then get a treat. It’s all about timing so when you give a dog a treat or reward you are reinforcing what happened the 2-3 seconds BEFORE. Just be aware of that
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or success to report! Info@fearlesspet.com